When we consider the worst decision a club ever made, we immediately think of the worst signing or a terrible managerial appointment, decisions that were costly but weren’t tragic. We are unlikely to necessarily think of decisions that were made with all the best intentions, those choices made purely to help others.
This is a change of direction in many ways but is an absolute must read. Another brilliant piece by Marco Jackson. I urge you all to read it.
Il Grande Torino.
Even now, the words resound with gravitas. In 1949, they hollered it
Il Grande Torino.
Winners of 5 Scudetti, the Granata line-up provided the vast majority
of the line-up of World Champions Italy. Many years before, Torino had
been managed by Italy’s two-time World Cup winning manager Vittorio
Pozzo, so it must have been a great source of pride for him to be able
to see so many players from his own club flourishing. Turin was, by
the 1940s, very definitely the centre of Italian football.
During the 1940s, even with the break for war, Torino swept all before
them. Not to dwell on the phenomenal statistics they encompassed, I’ll
simply present this one. If all Serie A games from 1942/43 to 1948/49
were averaged into a single 38 game season, Torino would earn 84
points, 19 clear of their nearest rival – no club has ever won the
English league with such a large margin, even once. Such was their
This ability brought about celebrity, and Torino frequently travelled
to play exhibition games in Italy, around Europe and beyond. Towards
the end of the 1949 season, captain Mazzola had arranged a match
against Benfica to act as a testimonial for his friend Jose Ferreira,
retiring at the end of the season. Torino flew to Portugal the week
after a 2-1 home win over Lucchese (taking their home record for the
year to W16-D1-L0).
If only they hadn’t.
The match was scheduled played on the afternoon of 3rd May 1949, and
contemporary reports have it being a glorious spectacle, as high in
quality as it was in excitement, though as it happens, Ferreira’s team
won the match 4-3.
The team flew back to Turin the day afterwards but conditions as they
approached the city deteriorated, particularly the fog. Turin is
blessed in its location, nestled in the shadow of the Alps; few things
are as beautiful as seeing the mountains disappearing into the
distance at the end of a street.
With visibility at a minimum, though, the mountains were a curse and,
after circling the city, the plane began to descend towards Turin.
However, the gloom caused the pilot made a fatal misjudgement, and the
plane flew directly into the base of the Basilica Superga, killing
everyone on board instantly.
One of the first to the scene was a local journalist, a certain
Vittorio Pozzo, who helped to identify the bodies in the wreckage.
Torino completed the season with a youth team and, since 1949, have
won only one Scudetto. Three players had not travelled with the team;
Sauro Tome (injured), Luigi Giuliano (no passport) and Laszlo Kubala
(injured), later to be voted Barcelona’s greatest ever player.
Il Grande Torino were Italy’s greatest ever team, and they were killed
on a single afternoon flying back from a game they did not need to
play. While nobody could criticise them for going to Lisbon, agreeing
to do so was the biggest mistake they ever made.