Steptoe and son reborn. Or the “Chupa-Chupa Kid rides again”.

A tutti bambi.  Ferma tutte le feminucce’.Il Chupa-Chupa gigante costa du-we euro, si spende du-we euro.  Da Noi Portate a casa la nuova chupa-chupa gigante!  Con otto Chupa-Chupa.  Si spende du-we euro, pagate du-we euro.  Prego! Venite a la machina dell publicita…Da Noi! Tutta la confezione con otto chupa-chupa costa du-we euro, pagate du-we.  Venite avvicinare la machina dell publicita.  Dunque la chupa chupa gigante lo potete utilisare come salvadanaio”.

Dont accept sweets from Strangers!

The above is a sound that greets the Neapolitan housewife on hot sunny mornings.  Booming from a tannoy attached to a small Fiat Uno is a distinctive, high pitched male voice: “Attention all children.  Stop and listen all you lovely ladies.  The Gigantic Chupa-Chupa costs 2 Euros…you pay 2 Euros!”  Parading up and down the street, although at a speed usually reserved for snails, turtles and geriatrics, this vehicle is a familiar and welcome sound.  The announcer has a tone very similar to many of the cars which also broadcast the policies and name of many candidates for political office every time elections arrive.  The short sharp sentences with an intonation rising on the amount the Chupa-Chupa costs is reminiscent of fairground ride announcers, radio Dj’s counting down the top-40 and landlords calling for last orders.

As a child I was always advised not to accept sweets from Strangers.  In Naples mothers warn their kids of exactly the same: “Non si accetta le caramele dagli stranei!”.  The paranoia mothers feel in many countries for those sinister characters who entice children away with a bag of jelly babies is well founded, but the vendor here is no Pied-Piper of Hamlin.  Our protagonist here is instead some unknown form of invisible folk hero, a man we never see.  A veritable scarlet pimpernel, who is sought here and there due to the ‘sticky goodness’ he brings.  We could compare him to a Robin Hood, except he doesn’t rob from the rich…he does ,however, quite literally feed the poor, although albeit in the form of sticky lollypops.  Eight of them tied together.  Oh,  which you can also use as a piggy bank [salvadanaio].  Where else in the world could you buy a lollypop for just 2 Euros?  That’s quite literally “du-we euro”!  An amazing bargain.

This “Del-boy of Forcella” [Forcella a small street-district of Napoli] is not just peddling ‘any-old’ piggy bank, though.  Far from it.  In fact, while our first piggy bank has managed to combine a sugary treat and a child’s future financial independence all into one tightly bundled lolly, our second has pulled off something far more characteristic of every Neapolitan kids dreams.  The second piggy bank is a tin version of Napoli’s favourite son (that is of course, after Maradona), namely Edinson Cavani.  Now everyone who knows a little bit about Calcio will know that Edinson Cavani has rapidly become one of Napoli’s most famous sons.  His sheer proficiency as a striker for the Partenopei would have army snipers taking notes.  Prolific is a word which should rhyme with Cavani and not the other way round.  I am writing this, however, after Napoli were knocked out off the Champions League last week, and while Cavani was far from prolific in that game, his most recent performance saw him turn a game on its head.

Napoli were losing away at Udinese 2-0.  This was a very important game as both teams were trying to qualify for next season’s Champions League.  By the time the game got to the 70th minute the neighbours in the flat above had turned off the TV and tuned into an old Neapolitan film.  The piazza outside was very quiet.  This is odd because usually whenever Napoli play and play well Neapolitans indulge one of their other intense passions: fireworks or fuoci d’artifice.  But not bangs this time, just silence.  I measure games by silence mainly because I have no TV and thus cannot follow the game via Italian Sky’s extortionate prices.  My Sunday afternoons are thus spent in balcony concentration, arms folded, watching the sky for fireworks.  Cavani exploded in the 74th minute.

A cross was sent over into the Udinese area and Domizzi (an ex-Napoli defender) inadvertently stuck up his hand.  The whistle blew, an old man in Udine chocked on his polenta, a cold silence fell over the Curva and the pre-penalty anticipation began to build.  Up stepped Cavani.  As a one-man piggy-bank, who has also already scored over 20 goals so far this season, he would be anyone’s first bet to score.  Penalties are not his forte, however, and there is a strange reasoning behind replacing Hamsik (the teams regular penalty taker) with Cavani, a reasoning that is never questioned.  Cavani stepped up struck the ball straight down the middle of the goal.  But something strange happened, maybe the goalkeeper questioned the strange reasoning.  He remained unmoved, however, and clutched the ball to his chest.

Our neighbours above, who had returned to the game on finding out Napoli had a penalty, stamped the floor in disgust and a line of dust fell into my Sunday afternoon spaghetti alle vongole.  Many other Neapolitans had I imagine switched off at that point, but Cavani wasnt finished…yet.  Napoli threw attack after attack at the Udinese defence and the pressure broke.  In the 81st minute Cavani produced a genius freekick over the wall that curled into the top corner and a trickle of hope crept into the Neapolitan night (a night on loan to Udine).  The fireworks were lit and noise engulfed the streets, but it had only calmed down a few seconds to erupt again in the 85th minute.  Cavani smashed in a low drive from close range on the left hand side and that was it.  Napoli erupted.  There is something strange about the silences during the game, but when these are peppered with moments of hysteria in the face of a Napoli victory (or  in this example a comeback) you can encapsulate the whole city’s character in one action.  Cavani is thus a very important figure for Neapolitans, and we could argue that he encapsulates another more famous aspect of the Neapolitan character: the streetkid.


O’ Scugnizz.

Napoli is famous for many things but one of its most well-known is the Scugnizz, or street kid.  Other city’s street kids are perhaps more famous than those of Naples.  Glasgow has its Gorbals boys photograph, and following on from their long line of street kids was the Peter Mullan film Neds.  Liverpool is famous for the street kids that became supporters of their red team, who called themselves scallies (scall in Liverpuddlian).  The Scugnizz’ (scugnizzo), however, is the archetype of all of Napoli’s past, present and future problems.  “I believe the children are our future…” went the song, well pity the poor scugnizz’ as he really doesn’t have one.  These children grow up in poverty and frequently turn to crime.  These start small, but by the time they are in their early teens many have been recruited into the Camorra, and after that the story gets sadder and harder.  The scugnizzo probably originates from the Medieval Latin word Cugnare which basically means “to scrape”.  And scrape he does.  He not only “scrapes around the streets”, he also “scrapes a living” and spends his life getting into and out of various different “scrapes”.  He is the perennial streetkid, you find them everywhere, but in Naples unlike anywhere else they turn their every facet into an artform.

Thus we have Nino D’Angelo one of Napoli’s most treasured singers playing a Scugnizz in the 1984 film Uno scugnizzo a New York.  He repeated his scugnizz role in 2008 although in a different plot in the theatrical play the last scugnizz (http://www.teatroteatro.it/recensioni_dettaglio.aspx?uart=1304 ).  Thus a street kid imitates art, or art….Anyway, this merging of art and street violence gets taken a step further in Napoli, much the same as anything else does here.  Thus a Scugnizz can also be applied to a mere cheeky kid whose parents feel is pushing the boundaries a little, or simply a kid as the pizzeria a’ ddo’ scugnizz’ (where is the scugnizz’?) seems to suggest, with its photos of the Pizzaiolo’s son in a chef’s outfit posted outside the restaurant.  There is one other Scugnizz we have failed to mention, however.

Perhaps our timely goalscorer is after all the ultimate scugnizz’.  Edison Cavani grew up in Salto, which by all accounts is no Napoli.  It is like Napoli the 4th largest city in its nation, but Napoli is arguably dirtier, rougher and downtrodden than its underdeveloped Uruguayan counterpart.  Coming to Napoli via the Palermo Serie A team, Cavani has established himself in the echelons of Napoletan folklore.  The street stalls in the Centrostorico sell fridge magnets of him as one of the ‘holy trinity’ of Napoli’s other current famous players Lavezzi and Hamsik.  But there is something different about the way Cavani is adored.  He is adored as a second coming.  The Maradona #2 who can bring success back to Napoli.  So how better to understand him?  He cannot be ‘god’ as God is spelt D-I-E-G-O in Campania, or at least in footballing terms.  No, if he is the second coming, then maybe he is the son?  And what is a son?  A son is a child, and what is a child of Naples?  A street kid!  A scugnizz!

Thus we come fullcircle.  We return to our Robin Hood with his Chupa Chupa Gigante.  This time the piggy bank is not a lolly but a tin version of our favourite Uruguyan with some biscuits inside…oh, and it can be used as a piggy bank!  Booming from the same tannoy attached to the Fiat Uno our distinctive, male voice has a different tone.  Behind the voice a euro-pop keyboard emits the song and two voices repeat the mantra: “Olè, Olè, Olè el Matador chi è?  Cavani lo’ Scugnizzo un goleador che schizza e insacca appena può” .  Which translates (with some elaboration) to “Ole ole ole, who is the Matador?  Cavani is a Scugnizz’, a prolific goalscorer who bags again and again”.

The song that is played is part of another Neapolitan practice which further situates their adoration for their footballers on a par with their saints.  That is to make a song about any of their footballers by recycling a pre-existing melody.  The Matador song will be famous to Neapolitans of a certain age group as it has been reused as from the theme tune of a animato from the 1980’s-1990’s called Il torero Camomillo based on a similar matador, although one that seems to sleep a lot when he’s not fighting bulls.  The same Neapolitans that recognise the torrero are likely now to be parents themselves of their own scugnizzi.  Thus how could they refuse to buy the tin Cavani piggy bank for their son or daughter.  The little tin container thus encapsulates layer after layer of Napoletan identity.  If you eat all those lollies son, one day you’ll grow up to be big and strong, just like Cavani….

Again the distinctive male voice repeats  “Attention all children.  Stop and listen all you lovely ladies.  The Gigantic Chupa-Chupa costs 2 Euros…you pay 2 Euros!”

Remember thats only “du-weh eh-urro” kids.

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