Today it was exactly 64 years ago since Il Grande Torino all passed away in a flight accident. Danny Hansen on SempreInter.com, reminds us of the legends that should never be forgotten:
If I were forced to chose a second team in Serie A, my choice would be simple, it would be Torino. They have the same rival as Inter, they have the league’s second-best-looking shirts and not least an incredibly touching and beautiful history. A history that could have looked very different if it were not for the tragedy that happened on today’s date 64 years ago, on May 4 1949.
The days before, on May 1, Torino had flown to Lisbon to play a friendly. Torino, who had won the four preceding Scudetti, were heading for the club’s fifth straight title. With four matches remaining they led the series with four points and there was no indication that the team that had won 18 straight matches and had not lost at home in 93 games would fail to win again. The team’s captain and big star, Valentino Mazzola (father of La Grande Inter’s ‘Sandro Mazzola) almost missed the plane and some rumors claimed that he had remained in Turin, others that he got off the plane in Barcelona. None of them were, unfortunately, true.
On May 4, after the friendly match had been played, 31 people returned, passengers and the plane’s crew, home to Turin, where the weather this day was horrible. The dark clouds were close to the mountains that surround Turin and the heavy rain meant that visibility was almost non-existent. Very few people were up on the mountain Superga where there was a basilica from the 1700s. The few who defied the weather, however, could hear a plane that first flew past and then circulated over their heads.
Just after 17 o’clock, the firefighters and police arrived to the Basilica. An aircraft of the model FIAT G-212 had crashed into the church and despite the rain there were fires burning all around. Nothing could be done for the 31 victims and no one had survived the accident. Wreckage Parts, bodies and luggage were scattered at the site and as the news spread about the incident, thousands of fans walked up the mountain in a slow procession.
The person who got the less than enviable task of identifying the victims, who were his former players and friends, was Vittorio Pozzo, the former national team coach who in a game in 1947 sent out an Italian eleven that consisted of 10 Torino players.
By the standards at the time, the news spread quickly and several late editions of the newspapers were printed and people across Italy could read headlines like Italy is crying for it’s champions: champions forever, FIAT automobile plants stopped production for a minute of silence and the Parliament in Rome postponed its activities. All of Italy united in grief for Il Grande Torino,
It is estimated that half a million people attended the funerals held on May 6, a day which like day of the accident was a rainy and gray day. Radio transmitted the funeral ceremony live and the coffins were transported through the city on large trucks adorned with flags and the player’s names. At the funeral, the Italian Football Federation president at the time, Ottorino Barassi, read the names of the dead players, starting with Captain Valentino. He didn’t have to say his last name Mazzola, everyone knew who it was. The same day 30,000 people walked up Superga to pay respect and leave flowers.
Torino was awarded the Scudetto that year, but decided to finish the season with players from the youth team. Out of respect opponents did the same. The next home game was an emotional experience for the fans who initially was in a state of shock before finally Toro, Toro… could be heard around Stadio Filadelfia.