I knew Neapolitans who read cards in earnest, and interpreted dreams with numeric systems. Before the tourists, the canyon-street of peeling stucco called Spaccanapoli was lined with wart-faced marionettes, masks and pulcinelle harlequins, steeped in folklore.
Catholicism in Naples can be richly occult: in the chapel of Sansevero, the marble veil over Christ’s body is so impossibly thin it must have been draped over him and turned to stone by magic, so they say; in a crypt below are the skeletal remains of a couple whose vascular systems are petrified by an 18th-century alchemist’s experiment.
What’s this got to do with Maradona? Everything. Maradona practised sorcery on the pitch; he played voodoo football. Maradona could mind-read and outwit a spellbound opponent’s motive before he knew it himself. No player can be a team, but Maradona’s sixth sense infused those alongside him; his captaincy was seance, as was his communion with Naples. Maradona played pagan football for a pagan city, and that was why it loved him.