Policemen, bomb threats and the mafia: How Fabio Quagliarella got his life and love back after stalker ordeal

Why wouldn’t he? As a boy from Castellamare di Stabia, brought up on the outskirts of Naples and in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, he was infected with that famous, sometimes infamous, southern Italian passion for the Partinopei.

But life is rarely that easy and instead Fabio was forced to head to the frigid north, to Turin, for his break in football. Via Torino, Fiorentina, Chieti, Ascoli and Sampdoria he bided his time and waited his chance.

It was a scenic route back home but, after a decade of professional football, Napoli got in touch in 2009 and there was no way he could say no. It was a dream come true, but a dream that turned into a nightmare.

“I always had imagined myself as captain of Napoli; of winning something with them because they were becoming as good a team as they are now – a great team,” Quagliarella told Mediaset last month.

“If none of this had happened,” he posited, “I am certain I would still be playing there now.”

But to merely say “none of this” is to boil down a terrifying, five-year ordeal into an almost flippant three words, barely scratching the surface of why Quagliarella walked away from his boyhood club after just a season.

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Quagliarella only spent one season at his beloved Stadio San Paolo (Getty)

Indeed, his departure for Juventus, a rival of the Neapolitans, saw him labelled a “traitor” by the fans of Napoli who had been won over by his proclamations of childlike love, a five-year deal and the promise of possibly even retiring with the club. Love had turned to hate and on returning home to see family and friends, Fabio suddenly found he had to wear disguises to avoid abuse and insults in the streets.

“Sometimes those close to me reacted, but I always tried to avoid arguing with these people… my own people,” he said, “I was waiting for the day when I could finally tell them everything.”

And now, finally, he has. But only after his former stalker, policeman Raffaele Piccolo, had been sentenced to nearly four years and eight months in jail for trying to ruin Fabio Quagliarella’s life.

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The forward left to play for Napoli’s bitter rivals, Juventus (Getty)

“A stalker tormented me for over five years,” he told newspaper Le Iene.

“I don’t know what was going through his mind, as he was a police officer and because of that I at first considered him someone to be trusted.

“It started with a password problem I had and he resolved it.”

That should have been the end, but it was only the beginning.

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A stalker tormented Quagliarella and his family (AFP/Getty)

“Then I started getting anonymous letters with pictures of naked girls, accusing me of paedophilia, of working with the Camorra (mafia), of dealing drugs, of fixing games.

“My father received threatening messages. They told him that someone would shoot me in the head or that they’d blow up my home with a bomb.”

One time Quagliarella even had a coffin delivered with his picture on it. His first response was to call Piccolo, the policeman, to help find the culprit. All the while the Quagliarella family were confiding in him and being assured that he would find the stalker, it was Piccolo making their lives hell.

“Any tiny scare suddenly became a huge danger, once you knew about these threats. You felt constantly like you were being watched, under threat, always looking to see who was eyeing you sideways. You cannot imagine the tension just being at home.

“The stalker, being a police officer, was regularly in my home and he was running the whole thing. He asked us to take some people’s fingerprints, kept saying: ‘We’re nearly there, just a little longer…’

“He even named some names, but when you’re inside all of this, it’s impossible to understand what’s going on. I couldn’t tell anyone, not even my brothers.

“My best friend, Giulio, was then called in by the authorities for invented links to the Camorra,” but this is when things started to unravel.

“In the end, my father figured it out. He realised the authorities never got my formal complaints because the stalker was keeping them all to himself.”

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Napoli’s supporters initially turned against the player (Getty)

But this was not simply a personal matter, it had a huge effect on Quagliarella’s career, even resulting in the transfer that so angered Napoli’s support and triggered the calls of “traitor”.

“The letters I received at home he also sent to my club. Before the away trip to Sweden, they called me and said I would not play because I was sold to Juventus. It was the first I’d heard of it.

“People accused me of leaving Napoli for money, but that was not true and really annoyed my family. The fans cared for me and felt betrayed, but they couldn’t know the real reason I left. They saw me becoming their captain, of winning something with the team. If it was up to me, I’d still be there at the San Paolo, as scoring those 11 goals were worth 100 to me.

“I tried to let them know how much I loved Napoli with little gestures, like refusing to celebrate after the goal for Torino. Would I go back to Napoli? It’d be wonderful even to just know those fans had thought of me. I left unfinished business there.”

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Quagliarella refused to celebrate his penalty against Naples (Getty)

And those fans heard his message.

On Sunday, before the win over Crotone at Quagliarella’s beloved San Paolo, the Napoli ultras unveiled a banner.

“You’ve lived through hell with enormous dignity,” it said. “We will embrace you again, Fabio, son of a city.”

At 34, a playing reunion is unlikely. But Fabio, son of a city, can now walks the streets of Naples with his head held high once more. The torment is over.

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