The entire city of Naples is up in arms over an article in The Guardian newspaper painting the entire place as a "mafia stronghold".
Football writer Barry Glendenning mentioned the southern Italian metropolis - the third largest in the country, after Rome and Milan - in a transfer rumour article in Thursday, in which he suggested that Rafa Benitez wanted to sign Danny Welbeck for Napoli's high-flying Serie A side.
Here's what Glendenning wrote:
"The news that Danny Welbeck is apparently unhappy with his lot at Manchester United has aroused interest in Naples, where Rafael Benítez has stopped making that wide-no-narrow sideline gesture he does with his two forefingers for long enough to register his interest in the disillusioned striker. Napoli sporting director Riccardo Bigon has let Welbeck's agent know that Napoli are interested in signing up his client, but with Everton and Tottenham also interested, the club from one of Italy's mafia strongholds will need to make Manchester United and Welbeck himself an offer they can't refuse."
An innocent enough Godfather reference, you might think; after all, it's no secret that organised crime has a long, dark history in Naples, and it's also true that a well-regarded striker such as Welbeck would expect a decent offer to swap the Premier League for Serie A.
Except that for Napoli, such a reference was a red rag to a bull: the club has been one of the city's most staunchly anti-mafia organisations for years, and Glendenning's flippant joke hit a nerve in spectacular fashion.
People across the city - whether football fans or not - are said to have been enraged by the line, and a group of Napoli supporters are even threatening to sue both the newspaper and the writer.
"There were false and offensive statements against the club Napoli, the city of Naples and the Neapolitans," the fans said in a statement.
"It is false and offensive to say Napoli is ‘the club from one of Italy’s mafia strongholds.’ We understand the bitterness that a Manchester United player could be sold to SSC Napoli, but we cannot justify gratuitous insults."
The club itself has also responded, and in brilliantly clever fashion, with Napoli communications director Nicola Lombardo sending the following open letter to the Guardian's sports editor:
"I am aware that it can happen that an article is not read carefully before being published. It is possible that as the editor of the Guardian's sports pages you may not have realised what was written. If not, we would be dismayed to read such a dated, dumb, vulgar cliche as this, linking the city of Naples to the mafia.
"This is an archaic impression that is also rejected by English tourists who every year choose Italy - and Napoli - as their holiday destination. They would not do that if they thought that Naples is Italy's mafia stronghold, a place where people fire at or rob each other in the street. We would not judge a city like Newcastle on the basis of MTV's Geordie Shore; we do not think all of that city's inhabitants are rude, gym-addicted and sociopathic. It is a shame to see the Guardian did not afford Napoli the same courtesy."
Lombardo went on to request a correction and an apology, both for Neapolitans and all Italians.
But Early Doors really doesn't know what to be most amazed at: the explosive reaction to what was, from a British perspective, quite clearly nothing more than a rather lame throwaway gag; or the fact that anyone lucky enough to live in southern Italy would be watching 'Geordie Shore' when they could be [JOKE WARNING] out riding round on a Vespa, eating ice cream, and wolf-whistling at da bootiful laydees…
- Sports & Recreation
- Danny Welbeck
- Manchester United
- Barry Glendenning