Wednesday 4 May 2011

Remembering Il Grande Torino

Captain Valentino Mazzola leads Torino out
Today marks the 62nd anniversary of the Superga tragedy, which resulted in the death of the epic Torino team of the 1940s. On May 4, 1949, the team was returning from playing a friendly in Lisbon when their plane crashed near the Basilica di Superga due to inclement weather, killing all thirty-one passengers on board.

That Torino team is widely considered to be the greatest Italian club team of all time. Its dominance during the 1940s was staggering, as it won five consecutive Scudetti during the decade. Il Grande Torino was also overwhelmingly represented in the Italian national team.

Alongside the players, club officials, journalists and aircraft crew also perished.

One of the most searing descriptions of the Superga tragedy is in John Foot's Calcio. He captures the despair of the tragedy by providing the account of former World Cup-winning Italy coach Vittorio Pozzo:

"The horrific task of identifying the victims fell to Vittorio Pozzo, journalist and ex-manager of Italy. It was not easy--many of the bodies were burnt beyond recognition. Pozzo walked around the crash site for four hours but some victims were only identified from documents found in their pockets or rings on their fingers. Pozzo, who wrote for La Stampa, the Turin daily, filed his copy that same evening. 'The Torino team is no more,' he wrote, 'it has disappeared, it is burnt, it has exploded...the team died in action, like a group of shock troops, in the war, who left their trenches and never came back.'" (Foot, Calcio, 90-1)

The players of Il Grande Torino: Valerio Bacigalupo (gk), Aldo Ballarin, Virgilio Maroso, Mario Rigamonti, Pino Grezar, Eusebio Castigliano, Ezio Loik, Guglielmo Gabetto, Franco Ossola, Valentino Mazzola (c), Dino Ballarin, Milo Bongiorni, Rubens Fadini, Ruggero Grava, Danilo Martelli, Piero Operto, Julius Schubert, and Giuseppe Grezar.

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