Rome and Naples are two historical Italian cities. In these two cities, Roman Catholicism pervades all aspects of life. At times, its devotees have blurred the boundaries between football and religion beyond recognition. These two cities have come to live and breathe football.
In them, football goes very much beyond the game. Football is a religion that has a stranglehold over the residents of these two cities. AS Roma (Rome) and SSC Napoli (Naples) represent articles of faith. So, whenever Roma and Napoli meet, it is a spectacle.
What we saw in the Roma-Napoli duel?
Matches involving these two teams are important, controversial, and tumultuous for both sides. Last Saturday’s game at the Stadio Olympico was no exception as it produced everything one can expect in a football game. The game birthed two great goals from Roma’s Lorenzo Pelligrini and Romelu Lukaku. It was a game that also produced twelve yellow cards and two red cards to Napoli’s Matteo Politano and Victor Osimhen.
Despite Roma’s triumph, it was a scene between Roma Manager Jose Mourinho and Osimhen that has generated a lot of razzmatazz on social media. Roma’s Bryan Crisante was cautioned for a late tackle on Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, prompting a passionate reaction from the Portuguese gaffer.
Mourinho and Osimhen end up in a hug
In a remarkable display if sportsmanship, a touching interaction unfolded between Mourinho and Osimhen, culminating in a heartfelt embrace. This poignant moment captured the mutual respect shared between a seasoned coach and a globally recognised striker.
Hours before the game, the 60-year-old Portuguese spoke about the Nigerian international who has drawn comparison with Ivory Coast and Chelsea legend Didier Drogba, a player Mourinho knows very well during their time with Chelsea. Mourinho expressed how challenging it is to compare footballers because they are unique in their own ways. He avoided directly comparing the 24-year-old Nigerian international who had an outstanding 2022-23 season to Drogba’s prolonged success at the highest level of the sport.
“Different. They are all different footballers. Difficult to compare. I never liked comparing great players. Osimhen is the best African player, Didier was the best African player for many years.” Mourinho quipped.
What's next for Osimhen?
Due to the red card Osimhen received in the Roma game, he will be unavailable in Napoli’s next fixture against Monza on December 29. This effectively ends his appearances for Napoli this year, as he gears up to represent the Super Eagles in the upcoming AFCON tournament in Ivory Coast.
Notably, Osimhen, who recently secured a contract extension with Napoli, has impressively netted 7 goals in 13 Serie A games this campaign.