Napoli Announcer Daniele Bellini: The Man With The Greatest Voice In Football
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Daniele Bellini wipes away the sweat from his hand and onto his trousers before taking a deep breath. He composes himself, raises a wide smile and lifts the microphone to his lips. "GOL PER Il NAPOLI!" he screams, as 55,000 people inside the Stadio San Paulo wait in anticipation. "THE SCORER... NUMBER 9, GONZALOOOO!"
It is September 18, 2013, and Napoli have just taken the lead in their opening Champions League game of the season; a tough encounter against Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund.
Gonzalo Higuain, as he did so many times that season, opened the scoring with a trademark header in the 28th minute. Moments later, a furious Jurgen Klopp is sent to the stands for protesting a quick corner kick that led to the goal.
As Higuain celebrates and his teammates soon join in, the crowd are entertaining Bellini's cries of "GONZALOOOO" with a swift "HIGUAIN" response.
Bellini repeats the shout 10 times, with the noise getting louder and louder by the second.
A soon-to-be viral moment is born.
Seven years and almost five million views later, the humble Italian is still feeling the effects of those now iconic screams inside the Stadio San Paulo.
"Lots of people around the world still send me messages about the Higuain video. It's amazing," he tells SPORTbible in a call over Zoom.
The passion Bellini has for this club runs deep. He used to have a picture of Diego Maradona beside his childhood bed and would go to sleep every night happy because the legend was playing for his team.
And when asked what Napoli Football Club means to him, he pauses and thinks for a while.
"Wow... It is very difficult for me to explain," he says. "The club is like a girlfriend. Your sister. Your mother. It's something special. I put my shirt up in my house because every day I think about this team as a friend."
The 39-year-old, who is also a DJ for local station Radio Kiss Kiss, is the first to admit he was lucky to get the job as the club's stadium announcer. He was, in his words, 10th in line to get the position after people said they were either busy on Sundays or the money wasn't quite good enough.
Bellini, meanwhile, jumped at the chance to represent his team.
"I'm a lucky guy. I worked for the club's official station, Radio Marte, and a number of people couldn't go for the interview. I remember someone told me to go there for one or two matches but 10 years later, here I am."
In the space of a few weeks, Bellini went from presenting a local radio show to performing in front of the intimidating atmosphere inside Italy's third-biggest stadium. From watching the likes of Marek Hamsik and Fabio Quagliarella on television to being just metres away from those very stars.
It was a dream come true for the man nicknamed 'Decibel'.
But on top of all the excitement building up to his first game, Napoli would come up against bitter rivals Juventus. He was understandably tense.
"You can see the video on YouTube. The first scream was "Welcome to the San Paulo stadium!" and I put my hand on the table because I was so nervous. I was thinking to myself, 'What is going on?'
"It was a dream. At that moment I was living my dream. It was incredible, although I don't really remember much about the first evening to be honest. It was like I was stuck in a bubble.
"For two or three days, I didn't really understand the enormity of the situation. I was next to my favourite players, against Juventus, in front of 60,000 people. I remember little bits of the game. Of course, we won... but it was just crazy."
Looking back, Bellini's debut against The Oldy Lady was something else.
After repeating the word "Napoli" three times, the deafening whistles and jeers of Gli Azzurri's hardcore support began to echo around the venue as he announced Juventus' team sheet. At times you can barely hear his voice inside the recently named Diego Armando Maradona stadium.
Since his debut on that special night in 2010, Daniele quickly became a cult hero among Napoli fans for his voice and personality.
He often gets spotted on the streets by the "warm and friendly" people of Naples and speaking to him one-on-one, you can really sense how appreciative and thankful he is for the support.
"I get recognised, yes, but it's strange for me," he tells us. "I am a simple guy. I am just really lucky to have this dream job. I keep on repeating it but this is a dream for me. I'm happy because the fans of Napoli are amazing."
Bellini's fame has ventured from his native Naples and onto a more global stage in recent years. In an interview with The Independent in 2017, he told the story of an eventful holiday to Jamaica, where a group instantly recognised his face.
"I was in Trenchtown, where Bob Marley grew up, with a guide. We looked in a bar and there were some kids watching a Premier League game. One of them turned around, looked at me, and his face dropped.
"'It's you,' he said. 'Hey, man, Gonzalo! Gonzalo! Higuain! Higuain!' I don't know how they'd seen the film - it's a bad area, they had old phones, no connection - and they did not know where Naples was, or even Italy. But they had seen it, in Trenchtown, in Jamaica."
In the ten or so years in his role at the football club, Bellini has naturally built a number of strong relationships with Napoli players and, when asked about those friendships, a story involving defender Kalidou Koulibaly really stands out.
He candidly speaks about how the Senegalese international acted when he found out about the death of a man who worked in a local restaurant.
"There are two or three very special people," he says. "First of all, Kalidou Koulibaly is a really special guy. Let me tell you this story so you can understand who this guy is.
"There was a man from Senegal who worked in a restaurant in Naples. He sadly passed away from natural causes and at the time, Kalidou didn't know this but when he overheard the story of his death, he paid for the body to be taken from Italy to Senegal. He's a gentleman. Nobody knows this.
"He's a very, very special guy with a big heart. And on the pitch, he is a fantastic player."
Bellini also names striker Dries Mertens as another special person in his life.
"Dries is also an amazing guy. We have a good relationship and are good friends off the pitch. We spent lots of time together in the first two or three years when he came here. These guys are special to me."
As we learn more about the man behind Napoli's famous soundtrack, you may be wondering whether Bellini's job has been affected at all by the current COVID climate. Well, it's all a little different to his usual routine.
"It's strange," he explains. "When I go to the stadium now, I don't see anything. I'm alone in the press area rather than on the pitch. And I only say the name once. I hope things go back to normal soon."
The Italian continues to do his duty, minus the repetitive screams from ground level, and he still appears on his local station.
"I will continue to work in radio. It's my first job," Bellini says. "And I hope to scream some more, hopefully in the Champions League."
That's something I, and the thousands of Napoli supporters around the world, cannot wait for.
Bring on the "GOL PER Il NAPOLI!" screams once more.