“Liverpool chose me!” – Meet the ‘Italian Scousers’ whose religion is the reds

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Every other weekend, Nunzio Esposito hears the roar. He sees flags and banners, listens to chants and chants.

Walking through Naples, his hometown, he will see the graffiti, the murals of Diego Maradona. He can listen to the enthusiastic chatter of some of Europe’s most passionate and dedicated supporters

It means nothing to him.

“I live 500 meters from the Stadio San Paolo”, says Esposito GOAL. “My dad subscribed to it when I was a kid.”

He pauses. “But there was only Liverpool for me.”

It was an unexpected gift that set him on the path to footballing happiness.

“I was eight years old,” he recalls. “I was given a team, Ref. 41, playing Subbuteo. It was the classic Liverpool kit from the 1970s.

“So I picked up a Guerin Sportivo magazine to search for photos of Liverpool players. There I saw Kevin Keegan: full red kit and his trademark haircut. It was love at first sight!”

Kevin Keegan LiverpoolGFX

It was 1974. Two years later, Esposito watched on TV as Liverpool beat Club Brugge to win the UEFA Cup.

“Even in black and white, Anfield was on fire,” he says. “The Kop was formidable, so loud – even at 2-0.”

A year later, he attended his first Reds game. “The European Cup final in Rome!” he smiles. “Not bad! The 1984 final was also my second match!”

Since 2007, Esposito has been chairman of the Italian branch of the Official Liverpool Supporters Club (OLSC Italy), which at the time of writing has over 600 members, spread across the country.

“They are like my brothers and sisters,” says one of them, Mario Djuninski.

Mario was born in Bulgaria but lived in Italy for 20 years before moving to Liverpool in 2016.

“It was a game against Grimsby, in 1997, that stole my heart forever,” he says. “Michael Owen scored a hat-trick, and after that I followed the Reds religiously.

“My first game at Anfield was against Sunderland in 2010. After this trip, I decided to settle permanently in this wonderful and unique city. I am so proud that I was able to achieve this.”

To be a Liverpool fan, says Mario, “is an honor and a privilege”. Pandemic aside, he hasn’t missed a home game in six seasons.

His daughter was born in the city – “she’s a born and bred Scouser!” – and all of his happiest memories are linked in some way to the Reds.

“I used to fly to games from Rome before moving to Liverpool,” he says. “I would do it 14 times a season. I spent a lot of money but I didn’t care because my heart was full of happiness and joy.”

Benedetta Tello is OLSC Italy’s senior graphic designer. She fell in love with Liverpool because of her brother, Federico.

“He was a big fan of Fernando Torres, so I started watching all their games,” she said.

“I vividly remember the 4-1 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford [in 2009], with Steven Gerrard kissing the camera. Maybe that’s when I became a fan.”

Benedetta and Federico first visited Anfield in 2017, watching a 1-1 draw with Chelsea.

Twelve months later, Benedetta went rogue and returned to Merseyside. She’s glad she did.

“I went to Liverpool alone, without my brother’s consent,” she laughs. “I wanted to meet Steven Gerrard, who was the Under-18 coach at the time.

“I had to spend at least three hours in the freezing cold in mid-January outside the Academy facilities in Kirkby waiting for him. Luckily I made it, so I have no regrets!

“The next day we beat Manchester City at home in a 4-3 thriller. It’s safe to say that it was the craziest and best weekend of my life.

“My brother also forgave me!

Liverpool Supporters Club Italy

Andrea Ciccotosto is the Vice President of OLSC Italy. He lives in Rome, manages the supporters club’s Twitter account and has been a Liverpool fan since 1999.

“I used to follow Juventus, then I recovered!” he says. “My hero is Michael Owen. I have all his shirts, even the Newcastle one!

“I even went to Stoke to watch him in the last year of his career and take a picture with him. He was a hell of a striker.”

Mohamed Salah, naturally, succeeded Owen in Andrea’s affections. “An incredible player but also a great person,” he said.

He is confident in the team’s chances of success this season. “We’ll take home two trophies – take note!” he declares.

Mario Djuninski is even more confident. “We can win all four this year,” he said. “I firmly believe so.”

It’s been a big week for all ‘Italian Scousers’, as Liverpool take on Inter in the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16.

Many of their members will be at San Siro. The rest will be glued to their screens at home or in pubs.

“Liverpool is my greatest love and my greatest passion,” says Mario. “I am very proud to support this special and incredible club.”

Benedetta agrees.

“I believe your club chooses you, not the other way around,” she said. “And I’m so happy that Liverpool chose me!”

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