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  • (ANNOUNCEMENT: No French cowbirds wasn’t meant to be harmed/insulted in the making of the following story. For easing your pain I can tell you that Finland is sharing 79th place in FIFA world soccer ranking together with Iraq.)

    And now to the actual story...

    Again in Napoli, one of my favourite cities, a jewel of chaos!

    The final of FIFA World Cup soccer had just been played the previous evening. Gli Azzurri, Blues, Italy had beaten France by penalties and was world champion after 24 years’ waiting in purgatory.

    The narrow alleyways crisscrossing around Spaccanapoli were filled with wild, loud, rejoicing people. The captain of the team, Fabio Cannavaro, was from Napoli and he was coming to visit his home town with Jules Rimet Trophy.

    Despite the crowds and tens of thousands of Italian flags flapping around totally different thing gripped my attention. Beside nearby church’s front wall stood a coffin. The deceased one was named France (Francia) and the time of death was a time of last kick yesterday. Yeah, I admit, it felt sort of sacrilege. I thought that maybe I should visit the church and inform the priest that some tifosi, soccer fans had made a tasteless joke in his churcyard.

    Before I had a chance to do anything the priest himself came out of the sacristy, wished me buonasera and bless you Lord. After that he wiped the coffin extra shiny and fastened obituary better with more sticky tape. Then he made a sign of cross with his hand, blessed the deceased one, mumbled some prayers and went back in.

    After some nights in the middle of hullabaloo we travelled deeper south, to badlands of Basilicata and Calabria. We returned to Napoli a month later. And there it stood still, against church wall, the coffin, shinier than ever, beside dozens of obituary posters of dead Neapolitans. Some killed by natural causes, some killed by camorra, Neapolitan mafia.

    From time to time passers-by stopped by the coffin. In front of other obituaries they wept, but beside this special one they knelt, kissed the coffin, smiled, laughed and hugged each other. Reactions were identical whether they were men, nuns or mothers of little babies.

    After watching for a while I thought I understood. They had waited for 24 years, for a generation, to be able to once stop beside a coffin and feel pure joy, not deep sorrow. In that city of violent, premature deaths and many, many coffins.
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