Sunday, 26 June 2011

River Plate and Torino - A Football Friendship

This evening, River Plate will play the most important match in their 110 year history when they face Belgrano de Cordoba in a relegation playoff. It is almost unthinkable that one of the world’s most famous clubs could be playing in the Argentine second division next season. However, as a Torino fan, I’m certainly aware that having an illustrious history does not guarantee continuous success, as demonstrated by the fact that despite having seven Serie A titles to their name, Torino currently find themselves in the second tier of Italian football.

However, it is not just their recent decline that links these two historic football clubs, but instead it is tale of friendship that began in the 1940s, and continues to the present day. In 1949, ‘Il Grande Torino’ were regarded as one of the best teams in world football, as they were on the verge of winning their fourth consecutive Serie A title. However, whilst returning from a friendly match against Benfica in Lisbon, disaster struck. In poor weather conditions, the plane that the team and officials were travelling on crashed into the Basilica of Superga near Turin. There were no survivors.

Upon hearing the news of the tragedy, River Plate president Antonio Vespucio Liberti decided that his team should go to Italy in order to show solidarity with Torino, with the idea that a match between the two teams could also raise money for the victim’s families. Therefore, just 22 days after the tragedy on May 26 1949, River Plate played a friendly against a team representing the symbol of Torino, made up of a selection of the best players in the Italian league, the match finished 2-2.

Despite being over sixty years since Superga, River Plate and Torino still maintain a close affiliation, with Torino fans appreciative of River’s role in the healing process that was necessary after the disaster. In the Torino Museum in Grugliasco, a current River Plate shirt can be found, thus showing that the match between the two teams is still regarded as a significant fixture in the clubs history. The fact that Torino’s current away kit echoes the traditional diagonal sash shirt made famous by River Plate, is another way in which the affiliation continues in the present day.

With River Plate being 2-0 down from the first leg of the relegation playoff, their quest to maintain their Primera División status does seem to be an ominous one. However, as a Torino fan thankful of Antonio Vespucio Liberti’s gesture of solidarity in Torino’s hour of need, I hope River manage to get the victory they need tonight.

River Plate v Torino Match Ticket

Torino's 2010-11 away kit

Monday, 20 June 2011

Torino sign Osarimen 'Giulio' Ebagua

In what will undoubtedly be a busy summer for new players, Torino have made Varese striker Osarimen 'Giulio' Ebagua their first summer signing.

After their failure to reach the Serie B playoffs, Torino will be looking to build a squad that is capable of achieving a return to Serie A in the forthcoming campaign, under their new coach Giampiero Ventura. The signing of Ebagua certainly seems to be a positive one, and whilst he cannot be described as being a prolific goal scorer throughout his career, he scored 12 goals from 28 games to help newly promoted Varese to an impressive 4th place finish last season.

At just 25 years old, there is also plenty of room for improvement for a player who was been described by his former Varese coach, Giuseppe Sannino as being ‘self-sacrificing’ as well as being a ‘born fighter’, which are characteristics Torino have lacked in their team in recent seasons.

By completing his transfer to Torino, Ebagua is returning to the club that he began his career at, as he was in the youth set up at Toro, before being released in 2005 due to the clubs financial difficulties. The Nigerian born striker is not the only player who has gone on to have a successful career after being released by Torino in 2005. Federico Marchetti, Robert Acqafresca and Fabio Quagliarella were all released under similar circumstances, and it certainly makes one wonder where Torino would be today had they not gone bankrupt in 2005.

Torino have had to pay Varese a significant sum of 1.2 million euros in order to sign Ebagua on a Co-Ownership deal, and young defender Gaetano Carrieri has moved in the opposite direction as part of the transfer. The purchase of Giulio Ebagua increases the likelihood that Torino’s captain and talisman Rolando Bianchi will be departing, with a number of Serie A clubs interested in the former Manchester City striker.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Giampiero Ventura Appointed New Torino Coach

In just six years as Torino President Urbano Cairo has overseen the appointment of a remarkable fourteen coaches, with former Bari boss Giampiero Ventura the latest man to be appointed as Torino coach.

After Torino’s failure to reach the Serie B playoffs, the departure of previous coach Franco Lerda was inevitable, and after a week of speculation, including former Foggia coach Zdenek Zemen being linked, it is Ventura who has been entrusted with the task to get Torino back into Serie A.  However, the fact the experienced coach has only been given an initial one year contract does not suggest a willingness on Urbano Cairo’s part to embark on a long term project that Torino so desperately need.


Saturday, 4 June 2011

Angelo Ogbonna called up to Italy squad

Young Torino defender Angelo Ogbonna has been called up by Italy coach Cesare Prandelli for the friendly match against the Republic of Ireland on Tuesday, after Alberto Aquilani was injured in the Azzuri's 3-0 victory over Estonia in Modena last night.

Whilst the match against Giovanni Trapattoni's Irish side is only a friendly, and Ogbonna is by no means guaranteed to gain his first cap in the match, it certainly shows that Prandelli thinks highly of a player who has only played 23 Serie A games in his career, with many of those coming as a substitute. In a season of disappointment for Torino, the continued emergence of Ogbonna has been a positive, as the vice captain was arguably Toro's best player this season, and is expected to make a big money move to a Serie A club after Torino's failure to gain promotion.


Thursday, 2 June 2011

Five Reasons for Failure

Three days have passed since Torino's home defeat to Padova meant that they would not be competing in this seasons Serie B playoffs, and therefore meaning that they will now spend a third successive season in Italy's second tier. In order to attempt to understand how a team that should have been contending for automatic promotion, was able to finish outside the playoffs positions, this blog will outline five reasons as to why Torino failed this season.

1. Poor Start

This is perhaps an obvious comment to make, but no matter what team you are, or what league that you are in, a good start to the season is essential. However, this season, Torino began the campaign with successive 2-1 defeats, firstly at home to Varese, and then away to Cittadella. Whilst on reflection, the opening day defeat to Varese can be excused, as despite being newly promoted they went on to finish the season in 4th position, Torino still had to wait until week 4 against Sassuolo before recording their first victory. For a team who were seeking promotion that can not be considered to be good enough, and when compared with eventual league winners Atalanta, who were in unbeaten in their opening four games, then it shows that Torino were playing catch up from the outset.

2. The 'Cup Final' effect

Without wanting to sound too arrogant, it would be fair to say that Torino are at times victims of their own past successes, especially when playing teams with less distinguished histories. Whilst the the term 'Cup Final' is perhaps a cliché, it is certainly true that other teams in Serie B would raise their performances when playing Torino. The fact that Toro have been champions of Italy seven times, whilst non of the other teams in the second tier have won one scudetto, certainly shows that even nowadays, the scalp of Torino is still a significant one. It can also be said, that some players can under perform due to the pressure of playing for such a large team with a passionate support, and thus in future, it may be an idea to sign players who can deal with coping with this pressure.

3. Over reliance on Rolando Bianchi

If you mention the name Rolando Bianchi to the majority of English football fans, they will remember his brief and ultimately unsuccessful spell at Manchester City in the 2007/8 season in which he only scored four goals. However, for Torino fans, in his three seasons at the club he has became an idol, and due to his goals, he has almost single handedly given Toro at least the opportunity to compete for promotion. After last season, in which the captain scored 26 goals, and despite not performing to the same exceptional standard this season, he was still able to repeat his goalscoring exploits by scoring 19 goals this season, despite the fact he played ten games less. However, for the second season in a row, Bianchi was the only Torino player to get into double figures, and this lack of goalscoring options throughout the team is certainly a contributing factor as to why they have failed to get promotion. With it being almost certain that Rolando will leave the club in the summer, it is vital that they find a way to get the whole team scoring goals, and not just relying on one man for the bulk of the goals.

4. Managerial Instability

Once again, this point is hardly ground breaking, but the fact that Torino had three managerial changes this season did not help their cause. After a run of four defeats in six games, the decision was made in March to fire Franco Lerda, and replace him with former Siena boss Giuseppe Papadopulo. However, just eleven days and two defeats later, Papadopulo was sacked and in an incredible turnaround,  Lerda was rehired. Whilst Lerda was relatively successful after his return, only losing one match (the decisive game against Padova) a number of factors have to be considered. Firstly, whilst the decision to sack Lerda as an attempt to revive Toro's chances of playoffs was at the time a fair one, the choice of Papadopulo as his replacement, was undoubtedly a failure. Whilst it can not be said for certain whether sticking with Lerda for the whole season would have led to a position in the playoffs, what can be said is that it would have been impossible for him to do worse than Papadopulo did for his brief period in charge. The fact that in a recent poll on Torino fans website Toronews, the majority of fans held the president Urbano Cairo responsible for the failure to gain promotion, it suggests that his habit of firing managers has turned the majority of fans against him.

5. Not making the most of Serie A status when we had it

When Torino gained promotion to Serie A in 2006, after a three year absence, it should have been the springboard for a prolonged stay in the top division, for a team who had been underachieving for many years. In their first season back, they finished in 16th position, albeit just one point above the relegation places, and in their second season back they improved slightly with a 15th place finish. After consolidating their top division status, the club's hierarchy should have attempted to move the club forward, and whilst contending for European football may have been an unrealistic target, seeking a top 10 finish would have been an achievable aim, if the squad was strengthened accordingly. However, this was not done, and the season ended in disappointment as Torino were once again relegated to Serie B. If one compares Torino to teams with similar histories (Napoli and Genoa) who have also recently been promoted to the top tier, they have managed to build on their respective promotions by gradually improving season on season to become established Serie A sides, culminating in Napoli's qualification for the Champions League this season. Although these teams have spent a significant amount of money, they have made sensible purchases, which Torino failed to do whilst in the top tier, and if they did, they may not be in this current predicament.