Sitting in the Northern part of Italy with the Swiss Alps in the background, Turin (or the city of Torino) is famous for two things: Chocolate and it’s love for Football. Often overshadowed by their noisy neighbours (Juventus), Torino FC are among the most successful clubs in Italy. With 5 consecutive Serie A titles in the 1940s, Torino FC was once a team that was feared across all of Europe. Then, the impossible happened. A tragedy, that shook the club to its core. The club was never the same after. This is the untold story of Torino FC.
Turin, the capital of Piedmont province of Italy, has always been a household name for football in Italy. Football first arrived in the city of Turin at the end of the 19th century, introduced by Swiss and English industrialists. Soon the ‘new game’ became popular quickly in the city and the club named Juventus FC was formed in 1897. A few years later and after a lot of clubs merged in 1906, an alliance was formed between Club Torinese and a group of people who disliked the ideology of Juventus. Hence, this merger gave birth to the “Torino FC”, as we know today. Also, the foundation of a heated rivalry with Juventus FC was laid down for the years to come. The city of Turin was split in two halves (Juventus and Torino FC) and every once in a while, both clubs faced each other in the ‘Derby Della Mole’ for the bragging rights of the city.
Torino FC adopted a badge that features “A rampant bull”, the traditional symbol of the city of Turin, from which the club’s nickname is derived, ‘Il Toro’ (The bull). The choice of colours for the kits also have some fascinating stories to offer. The most widely accepted story is that it was adopted in honour of the victorious liberation of Turin from the French in 1706. Interestingly, the messenger who brought the news of the victory died in court. Therefore in his honour, the Duke of Abruzzi took the messenger’s blood-coloured handkerchief and raised it in the air to announce the victory. Hence, the bloodstain became an important part of the history of the city. Another interesting story suggests that the colour was created by a mistake as the club used to wear Orange and Black coloured stripes with red and black coloured socks originally. With repeated washing, the colours got mixed up to form granata, a dark shade of red similar to burgundy at the end. It was considered a good omen for the club.
Although the club had to wait years to lift a major trophy, the wait was extended even further when they were denied the Scudetto title twice, once because of World War I in 1915 and then in 1927 because of a Scandal. Finally, after the revoking of the prior scudetto, Torino were reconfirmed champions of Italy in the 1927-1928 season. Their attacking trio was known as “Trio of Wonders”, scoring 89 goals between them and winning the title on 22 July 1928 with a 2–2 draw against Milan. After their triumph, the club began a slow decline in the early 1930s and often finished mid table. The resignation of the club President, Cinzano made it even worse. Finally, things started to get better after the appointment of Ferruccio Novo as the new club president. Novo provided financial support to the club and utilised his skill as a careful administrator. He was able to build a historic team that went on to be remembered for generations as the iconic “Grande Torino”.
The club’s greatest period is encapsulated in the Grande Torino, a team which won five titles in a row between 1942 and 1949, and the Coppa Italia in 1943. Due to this success, Torino became the first team to win the Scudetto and Coppa Italia “double” in Italy during the same season. This wasn’t only limited to Italy, as Torino had become a prominent club in Europe too. They were a team of stars, who kept on defeating almost every opponent they faced. Every European club wanted to play at least a friendly against them, to test their might and observe the tactics of the Grande Torino. The players of Torino FC also formed the backbone of the Italian national team in this period, fielding 10 players in the starting XI of the Azzuri. Sadly, their success came to an abrupt end on 4 May 1949 when the plane carrying the whole team crashed into a nearby hill in Turin. The crash killed every single passenger onboard and was termed as the “Superga Air Disaster”, something Torino can never forget, a bloodstain that can never be washed away.
It was the 4th of May, 1949, a chilly evening in Turin. Fans were eagerly waiting at the airport to welcome back their team who were returning after a friendly game against the portugese club, Benfica. The foggy weather couldn’t annihilate the zeal of the fans, who kept on cheering for the Grande Torino. All of a sudden, the homecoming turned into a black day. The moments of joy turned into their worst nightmare, as the flight never landed. Everyone stood there helplessly and watched on as the plane flying above them vanished into the fog. The plane kept on flying for a few kilometres and then crashed into the retaining wall of Basilica of Superga, which stands on a hill on the outskirts of Turin. Out of the 31 people onboard, none survived. The crash killed the entire squad of Torino FC, along with the coaching staff and their legendary manager Egri Erbstein, club officials, some prominent journalists including the founder of Tuttosport ‘Renato Casalbore’, and the flight crew including all the pilots. Low visibility due to the dense fog and faulty altimeter in the cockpit was determined as the cause of the crash. Torino FC was never the same again.
On the day of the funeral, half a million people took to the streets of Turin to give a final farewell to the players. It was one of those rare moments when not just every citizen of Torino, but also the whole country was standing together in solidarity, not bounded by their respective clubs. At the request of rival teams, Torino were proclaimed winners of the 1948-49 Serie A season as an honour to the crash. All the opponents fielded their youth teams in the remaining 4 games against Torino. The following season, the other top Italian teams were asked to donate a player to Torino. Therefore, every other club donated a player to the club, including their city rivals Juventus FC. The shock of the crash was such that the following year, the Italian national team travelled to the 1950 FIFA World Cup in Brazil by ship! Football is indeed a game of emotions and a way of living our lives.
Torino FC have always had historic ties with South American clubs. In fact, Torino FC was the first ever Italian club to travel to South America for a few charity games in 1914. The club played six friendly matches, two of which were against Corinthians, and despite the results on the field, the two clubs established friendly relationships. On the 4th of May 1949, when the Grande Torino team perished in the plane crash of Superga, Corinthians paid tribute to the Italians in a friendly match against Portuguesa when its starting XI took to the field in Torino’s kit. You’ll be surprised to know that there are a huge amount of Torino fans in Argentina as well, because the club is historically twinned with River Plate, since the time of the Superga disaster. In the period following the disaster, the Argentine club was very close to the Italian club, organising a friendly and fundraiser to help the devastated team. Since then, as a testimony to the relationship between the two clubs, the away jersey of the Argentine club has been maroon on several occasions while Torino have sported several variations of an away kit with a diagonal band, an homage to River’s home kit. Even this season, one can notice that the away kit of Torino is actually similar to the River Plate’s home jersey, as a tribute.
Fans are the soul of any club. Likewise, the fans of Torino also hold a number of distinctions, just like their club. Torino fans are known as the pioneers of the fan culture and ultras in Italian football. Fedelissimi Granata of Torino was the first ever organised supporters group of the Italy. The fans are also known to display the first ever banner at their home stadium and also for organising the first ever away trip for fans by plane in Italian football, in 1963, during a game against Roma. In the 1970s the fans began to organise the club’s first choreographies, which were used in commercials by the French car manufacturers Renault. Surprisingly, supporters of Torino also have a good friendship with the supporters of English club Manchester City, who have learnt a lot about choreographies and chants from the Turin club.
In the past few decades, Torino FC has been bouncing between the top two divisions of Italy. Although, they did pretty well in European competitions in the early 90s. One of the stellar performances of this era was in the 1991-92 Uefa Cup, in which they knocked Real Madrid out of the tournament in the Semi Finals, but lost the finals on away goal rules to the Dutch side Ajax. The following season, Torino won their fifth Coppa Italia after defeating Roma, which proved to be their last major trophy till this date. The club subsequently went through a period of severe economic difficulties. The club changed presidents and managers several times, but the results continued to worsen. Finally, the club’s bankruptcy was announced on 9th August 2005. After a few more turbulent seasons, Torino FC finally established themselves as a mid-table club in Serie A.
Last season, Torino narrowly escaped relegation. Up until matchday 37, it was unknown if they would be playing in Serie A again next season. Now with the appointment of Ivan Juric as the new manager, the team looks more stable than ever. Juric has completely transformed Torino FC into a mean defensive machine as they now have the 4th best defense in the league, only behind Napoli, Inter and their rivals Juventus. Their in-form defender Gleison Bremer is already a hot name for many Italian clubs. Also, players like Brekalo, Pobega and Sanabria have been flourishing so far under Juric. Torino currently sits 10th in the league and if Juric keeps on bringing the best out of the current squad, then a Top-8 finish could be possible.
Tonight, they will play the most important game of their season. Tonight, they will play against Juventus in the electrifying Derby Della Mole for the bragging rights of the city. Tonight, the fans will sing their anthem again with tears in their eyes. Tonight, they will dream again of becoming the Grande Torino, a team that never returned….