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Remembering the Grande Torino

A look back at the triumph of a legendary football team on the anniversary of the Superga disaster.

The day of May 4 cannot be considered a day like any other, at least by every sports fan. Indeed, today marks the 74th anniversary of the Superga tragedy and Bliss from Bygone Days has decided to pay homage to the "Grande Torino" with this post.

The Torino F.C. was the football team of the city of Turin (northern Italy). The club was called "grade" (big) because it was not just an average football team playing in the league, the squad members were already considered legends simply because the team they played for managed to gather Italy under a unique flag after the WWII. The reason for this to happen was because Torino F.C. was the only one in the league having all the players playing for the Italian Nation Team.

It was a legendary team, unanimously recognised as one of the strongest in the entire history of football.

Best team ever. They were invincible. They won it all.

In the summer of 1939 when the industrialist Ferruccio Novo, at age 42, took over the presidency of Torino F.C., the fate of the team began to change. The team set many records by winning five league titles in a row: 1942-43, 1945-46, 1946-47, 1947-48, 1948-49, one "Italy Cup" trophy, 88 home games played without any defeats, the highest number of goals scored during a match (10-0 against Alessandria) and 125 goals in the 1947-1948 season.

The Grande Torino was the backbone of the Italian national football team, so much that 10 of its players were called up to play against Hungary and Switzerland. An absolute record never repeated in the history of football. In 1942-43 the Grande Torino was the first Italian team to succeed in the only possible en plein: winning both the national championship and the "Italian Cup" trophy. Among the big nations of European football only three teams had done it before: Athletic Bilbao, Aston Villa and Preston North End.

Il Grande Torino was the symbol of a country that had endured the WWII and found itself broken in two, eventually. Italy then happened to identify itself in a spectacular team. It seems absurd to think so in the modern game, where division and rivalry are becoming more and more polarised, but there was a time when even the fans of other teams loved the rival, they loved Grande Torino. And it is no coincidence that many stadiums throughout Italy today bear the names of its team legendary players.

The last game

On May the 1st 1949, Torino flew to Lisbon to play a match against Portuguese team Benfica. They played the match at the National Stadium in Lisbon, in front of 40,000 spectators. The match ended in a victory for Benfica, but only by one score difference. However, it was an opportunity for Torino to showcase its talent in front of an international audience.

The Superga tragedy of May the 4th

On the afternoon of May the 4th 1949, the FIAT G. 212 trimotor of Avio Linee Italiane which was bringing the team home found a heavy fog enveloping the city of Turin and the surrounding hills. At 05:05 pm the plane was off course due to lack of visibility and a malfunction of the on-board altimeter and eventually crashed into the walls of the garden at the back of the Basilica of Superga, on one of the hills of the city of Turin (northern Italy). The crash was fatal and everyone on board died instantly (18 players, 3 managers, 3 coaches, 3 journalists and 4 crewmen).

The Superga tragedy had a strong international impact since the Grande Torino was famous all over the world and on the day of the funeral in the city of Turin almost a million people gathered to pay their last tribute to this legendary club.

Eighteen Torino players lost their lives that day: Valerio Bacigalupo, brothers Aldo and Dino Ballarin, Émile Bongiorni, Eusebio Castigliano, Rubens Fadini, Guglielmo Gabetto, Ruggero Grava, Giuseppe Grezar, Ezio Loik, Virgilio Maroso, Danilo Martelli, Valentino Mazzola, Romeo Menti, Piero Operto, Franco Ossola, Mario Rigamonti, and Július Schubert.

Heroes are always immortal in the eyes of those who believe in them. And so the kids will believe that Torino isn't dead: it's just 'away'.

- Indro Montanelli

The date of May 4th will forever be associated with the greatest tragedy to strike an Italian football team, il Grande Torino. Over 70 years have passed since that tragic day in 1949, but one of the greatest Italian teams to ever grace a football pitch will never be forgotten.

Dedicated to my beloved father Giuseppe (1949-2020) who was a great supporter of Torino Football Club.



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