For those that don’t know, May 4th 1949 is a date that is etched in the memories of all Torino fans, and sadly it so for all the wrong reasons. It was on this day that the famous Il Grande Torino team perished in a airplane disaster when the team were returning from a friendly match in Lisbon. Il Grande Torino were a team truly befitting of their name, as they won an incredible five consecutive league titles and were undefeated at their home stadium Filadelfia in four of those seasons. Perhaps the most remarkable achievement of the team was the fact that in a friendly match between Italy and Hungary, Torino provided all ten outfield players for the Azzurri, a feat that will almost certainly never be repeated. Led by their captain Valentino Mazzola, Il Grande Torino dazzled their supporters with attacking football, at a time when the Italian people needed uplifting in the aftermath of the Second World War.
Sadly however, the story of Il Grande Torino has a tragic ending, but one that cemented the teams almost mythical status. Returning from a farewell match for Benfica player Francisco Ferreira in Lisbon, the plane carrying the players and officials crashed into the Basilica of Superga, situated on a hill near Turin. There were no survivors. In the aftermath of the tragedy, an estimated 500,000 people lined the streets of Turin to pay their respects for the players who had perished, with nobody quite being able to comprehend what had happened. Torino have never been able to replicate the success they achieved in the 1940s, and have only been able to win one Scudetto since, in 1976, and currently find themselves in the second tier of Italian football, a world away from the accomplishments of Il Grande Torino.
On my recent trip to Turin, I was lucky enough to visit the Torino museum in Grugliasco, a town on the outskirts of Turin. Whilst it is officially known as the ‘Museo Grande Torino’ the museum features exhibits from all aspects of Torino’s history. Whether that be memorabilia from the team’s run to the Uefa Cup Final in 1992 or a match worn shirt belonging to current captain Rolando Bianchi. However, it is the exhibits relating to Il Grande Torino that are most intriguing, and really enable the visitor to gain a real insight to how the tragedy affected not only the supporters of Torino, but the whole of Italy.
As a Torino fan, I may be biased, but after visiting the Museo Grande Torino, the other football museums that I have visited, those belonging to both AC Milan and Barcelona really do pale in comparison. Part of the reason for this is the fact that unlike at the two museums I have mentioned, where almost all of the artifacts are hidden behind glass cases, and the visitor is left to their own devices, at the Museo Grande Torino, that is not the case. Instead, I was given a tour around the museum by a guide (who thankfully spoke English, thanks again Amleto) and many of the exhibits can be touched and in some cases smelt. That brings me nicely to what was in my opinion the most remarkable exhibit in the museum, a medicine box that had been recovered from the wreckage of the plane after the Superga disaster. The incredible thing was, that whilst the impact of the crash had led to the death of 31 people, the contents of the box showed little damage, and remained pretty much intact. The box included a container of a liniment, that would of been used to treat muscle injuries, and despite being 62 years old, had still managed to retain its smell, that immediately engulfed the room and almost succeeded in transporting me back to the days of Il Grande Torino.
The museum also includes an area dedicated to former player Gigi Meroni, whose tale is once again one of immense sadness. Meroni’s style of play and playboy lifestyle led to comparisons with George Best, however in 1967, his life and career came to a premature end when he was hit by a car whilst crossing the road. He was only 24.
The history of Torino has certainly been an eventful one, but the legends of Il Grande Torino should never be forgotten, and thankfully, due to the existence of Museo Grande Torino, their achievements will continue to be acknowledged and therefore live on. Recently, every new Torino signing has embarked on a trip to the museum, and this is an appropriate step to ensure that each current player knows what it means to represent Torino.
Whilst the museum certainly is a fitting tribute to the players of Il Grande Torino, sadly despite many promises regarding its rebuilding, Filadelfia continues to be left in ruin. However, recently there has been talk of the old stadium finally being rebuilt, if only to be used as a training facility, and hopefully this will happen sooner rather than later.
All pictures and videos are copyright of ‘Museo Grande Torino’, please if you have the opportunity, please visit the museum. It is open on Saturdays and Sundays, and you can find their official website here.
|Outside the Museum.|
|Trumpet belonging to Oreste Bolmida, known as 'The Trumpeter of Filadelfia'.|
|Stands from the old stadium at Filadelfia.|
|A suitcase belonging to Valentino Mazzola, recovered from the wreckage of the crash.|
|Ticket stub from the last game played by Il Grande Torino - Against Benfica.|
|Car that once belonged to Gigi Meroni.|
|Winners medal from Torino's 1976 Scudetto Victory.|
|Rolando Bianchi's captain's armband - translation - I am the captain of my soul.|