The incredible fate of FC Torino – Football – International

The incredible fate of FC Torino – Football – International
The incredible fate of FC Torino – Football – International

In the series “The gate to the world” we take a close look at international football clubs and their stories. We illuminate the background that tends to get lost in the quick, daily reports.

It started with the story about Nottingham Forest. The club have returned to the after 23 years. Read here>>>

We have also already reported on AC Monza’s promotion to Serie A under the leadership of Silvio Berlusconi. Read here>>> And FC Vaduz, who are chasing points far from their Liechtenstein homeland, was already a topic. Read here>>>

This time it’s about the incredible fate of FC Torino. An invincible team crashed into a church wall and a fan who killed their idol.

Some have a curriculum vitae, others a biography.

The shroud kept in Turin Cathedral since the end of the 17th century, in which Jesus of Nazareth may have been buried. The Battle of Turin with Prince Eugene on horseback against Louis XIV’s French troops on September 7, 1706. Status as the first capital after the unification of Italy in 1861.

The people of Turin cultivate their myths. At the end of the day, it’s about being able to tell a really good story over a good bottle of Piemonte.

While , as record champions, could talk about their titles and records quite dryly for minutes, Valentino Lazaro’s new club Torino would tell the stories of how his best team crashed into a church wall, how his most exciting player was killed by one of his biggest fans and this man later killed the club again in his capacity as president.

The club of old Turin

Juve may be Italy’s most popular club, but Torino is the city’s club, holding the hearts of old Turin. Those people who were already there before they came from the poor south and hired hundreds of thousands into the FIAT factories. Uprooted southern Italians, for whom Juventus, club of the FIAT dynasty Agnelli, offered a home and a distraction from the long hours on the assembly line.

They always viewed the bohemian lifestyle of the moneyed nobility critically in arch-Catholic Turin. They preferred Torino. The club that the Viennese Heinrich “Enrico” Schönfeld almost led to their first championship title in 1924 as the top scorer.

But Schönfeld had long since left Turin when the men with the garnet red shirts rose to become one of the most exciting teams in Europe. “Il Grande Torino”. Club president Ferruccio Novo put together one of the best teams Italian football had ever seen in the early 1940s.

With Mazzola and the WM system to fame

The team won five championship titles in a row – the first in 1943, the last in 1949. The competition was temporarily interrupted because of the war. At the end of the championship in 1949 only defender Sauro Tomá, reserve goalie Renato Gandolfi and young talent Luigi Giuliano were still alive. The rest of the team, the coaches, the officials, all dead. Italy in shock.

Until then, “Il Grande Torino” had rushed from success to success, was the first Italian team to win the double and was unbeaten in 93 home games. There was one international match in which team boss Vittorio Pozzo played ten Torino kickers at the same time.

Outstanding Captain: Valentino Mazzola. Even today he is described as one of the first “complete footballers”. When the Hungarian coach Ernö Erbstein introduced the World Cup system, which was then unknown in Italy, in the first post-war season, based on the example of the legendary Arsenal coach Herbert Chapman, the curly-blond Mazzola was the epitome of the modern footballer.

In his five seasons with Torino, he won five league titles and scored 102 goals. His son Sandro later became a legend at Inter Milan, to date only three kickers have played more often for the “Nerazzurri”.

The tragedy

In early May 1949, Mazzola was plagued by fever, but recovered in time to travel to Lisbon for a friendly against Benfica. It should be his death sentence.

On the return flight to Italy, the FIAT G.212CP stopped in to refuel. Meanwhile, the Torino kickers met those from AC Milan who were on their way to Madrid for dinner.

The closer the plane got to Turin, the worse the weather got. Dense fog, strong gusts of wind, rain showers, visibility only 40 meters. The experienced pilot Gigi Meroni – the name will play a role later – lost his bearings when he wanted to fly over the local mountain Superga.

Photo: © getty

On May 4, 1949, at 5:05 p.m., the plane crashed into a wall at the foot of the Basilica della Natività di Maria Vergine, which stands on the top of the Superga. All 31 occupants died on the spot. 18 players, Coach Erbstein and his English assistant Leslie Lievesley, two club managers, the masseur, four prominent sports journalists, pilot Meroni and four crew members lost their lives.

Vittorio Pozzo, former team boss and then journalist with “La Stampa”, spent four hours identifying the bodies, some of which were charred beyond recognition, on the Superga. Late one night he wrote: “The Torino team is gone. It’s gone, it’s burned, it’s exploded.”

The grief was immense, the parliament interrupted its session. Half a million people lined the streets of Turin as the victims were buried. 30,000 of them made a pilgrimage to the Superga, and a sea of ​​flowers was laid on the 672 meter high mountain.

“See that beautiful cup?”

“Tuttosport” described the scene: “In the waiting room, federation president Barassi spoke to the coffins of the players as if they could hear him in them. He had officially presented them with the fifth championship title in a row, had called them one after the other, and for Finally it was Mazzola’s turn. Barassi drew a huge cup in the air with his hands and said: ‘See this beautiful cup? It’s yours, it’s yours all. It’s very big, bigger than this hall, it’s huge and inside are all our hearts.’”

Torino played the remaining four games with a youth team, the opponents did the same out of respect for the club. All four games were won. Even before that, the club was certain to be champions. He then celebrated just one more Serie A league title, in 1975/76. After that, five Austrians played for the club: Walter Schachner, Toni Polster, Alexander Manninger, Jürgen Säumel and now Lazaro.

“Sfigati”, the unlucky ravens, has been called the club again and again since the accident. Even today, every May 4th, numerous fans march to the Basilica am Superga. The disaster set Italy’s football back 30 years, according to a popular thesis that is still being advocated today. The Italian national team only recovered many years later, Torino never.

In 1959/60 the “Toro” – based on the bull in the coat of arms – even had to spend a season in Serie B. But in the early 1960s, the fans of the “Toro” started dreaming again. Her team made it to the final of the Coppa Italia twice in a row.

The garnet butterfly

And in the summer of 1964 he came: Gigi Meroni. That he had the same name as the pilot of the Superga tragedy, a twist of fate. “La farfalla granata”, the garnet-red butterfly, they called it. And truly, Meroni was an apparition on and off the pitch.

A small, delicate dribbler, an esthete who detested penalty goals because they didn’t do justice to his aesthetic sensibilities. Socks rolled down to his ankles, always good for a flourish, one of the best footballers Italy has ever seen.

But Meroni also attracted attention when he was not on the field. “Italy’s James Dean” is what John Foot called him in his opulent review of Italian football history. Others see him as Calcio’s first pop star. Meroni adored the Beatle George Harrison, grew his hair and beard, designed his own extravagant clothes and liked to walk a chicken on a leash.

Meroni spent the nights painting pictures. And he was having a public relationship with a married woman. Divorce was not allowed in Italy in the 1960s, marriages could only be annulled. A man like Meroni was a walking scandal in arch-conservative Turin. He was the harbinger of the dawn of a new era.

In the summer of 1967, Juventus was keen to poach the Torino star. The Agnelli family offered 750 million lira, which is around 2.2 million euros today adjusted for inflation. An outrageous sum.

When the impending change became public, the “Toro” fans rebelled. Chartered planes dropped flyers all over the city, Torino supporters working for FIAT allegedly deliberately dented cars on the assembly line, Torino President Pianelli faced threats that his daughter would be kidnapped. Agnelli finally gave in and the transfer fell through.

Shortly thereafter, Gigi Meroni was dead. Run over by one of his biggest fans.

A dramatic October day

It was 15 October 1967, Torino had just defeated Sampdoria 4-2 and Meroni had once again produced a brilliant performance. The evening after the game, the team went partying, Meroni and his teammate Fabrizio Poletti said goodbye because they wanted to pick up their friends.

The two were standing on the median of the busy Corso Re Umberto when a FIAT 124 coupe hit Meroni, the “butterfly” could no longer be saved, it closed its wings at the age of only 24.

The man behind the wheel was called Attilio Romero. He was just 19 years old and had only recently obtained his driver’s license. And he was a Meroni admirer, had a Torino subscription, even let his hair grow like his idol. In his FIAT he had a small photo of the kicker and his blood on the hood.

Less than two decades after the dramatic end of “Il grande Torino”, the club was in shock again.

On the Sunday after that, the Derby della Mole took place. Torino won 4-0 – the “Toro” never again managed a better win against Juve. Nestor Combin, Meroni’s best friend on the team, contributed a hat trick.

Romero killed Torino again

Romero, in turn, started a career at FIAT, he worked his way up the press department and was even a spokesman for Gianni Agnelli. In June 2000 he left the automaker and became – yes, really – President of Torino.

“I used to be the only fan in the world who killed my favorite player. Today I’m the only club president who killed a player from my club,” he dictated into every microphone he could find. Crazy even by Italian standards.

In 2005, Romero bankrupted the club. Romero was sentenced to two and a half years in prison in 2008 for fraud and various other financial crimes, but never served the sentence.

“He deserved a life sentence for killing the ‘Toro’ twice,” fans said.

Because Italy is Italy, the club was allowed to start over in Serie B under the new name Torino FC, and was promoted to Serie A again in 2006. It went down again in 2009 and up again in 2012.

The bull, he has something to tell…

Text Source: ©

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