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Young Boys' 'Italians' coo over Napoli

"Every year when I'm on holiday in Italy I buy a Napoli shirt," said BSC Young Boys midfielder Raphaël Nuzzolo, with SSC Napoli's Group I visit causing a stir north of the Alps.

One of Young Boys' resident Napoli fans, midfielder Raphaël Nuzzolo
One of Young Boys' resident Napoli fans, midfielder Raphaël Nuzzolo ©Getty Images

With plenty of Italian blood flowing through their veins, BSC Young Boys are very excited indeed about the prospect of hosting SSC Napoli in UEFA Europa League Group I.

Berne is in the predominantly German-speaking part of Switzerland, but coach Uli Forte is not the only Young Boys employee to feel a special frisson about taking on Italian opponents. "A lot of our players and staff – me included – are Italian or have Italian roots from the south of the country. It's a very special game for us," said Forte.

Facing the Partenopei is certainly a big occasion for the 40-year-old. "I have always been a big Napoli fan," he explained. "I still remember when I was ten years old and Diego Maradona had his presentation at San Paolo in front of 70,000 fans. I want to beat them, though, and we will do all we can to achieve that."

Midfielder Raphaël Nuzzolo was – like Forte – born and raised in Switzerland, yet has a strong affinity with Naples thanks to his Italian ancestry. "Every year when I'm on holiday in Italy I buy a Napoli shirt," said the 31-year-old. "They have top-class players and I particularly like Marek Hamšík, Gonzalo Higuaín and José Callejón. I also like Dries Mertens, who is skilful and quick like me, and can come in from the left and shoot with his right foot."

Nuzzolo, too, is eager to secure a victory against Napoli, having been part of the Young Boys squad that claimed a notable Serie A scalp in 2012/13. "We played Udinese in the UEFA Europa League two years ago and won both games," he recalled. "That was special for all the players who had Italian parents – we loved that. We really want to win again and we have shown that it is possible."

Crucial, perhaps, in that quest will be the support of the Berne crowd. Forte, for one, hopes that the YB fans can conjure something of a Neopolitan vibe for the evening. "The fans of both teams are great, but Naples is a city that lives for football," he noted. "I remember when Ezequiel Lavezzi went shopping in Naples – the entire city just stood still."