By 90Min
February 20, 2018

Sometimes, a game of football pales into insignificance.

On the 4th of May 1949, an aeroplane carrying the entire Torino team crashed into the Basilica of Superga in Turin. There were no survivors, thirty one men had lost their lives, and Italy mourned as a nation.

Torino FC had suffered a devastating catastrophe, as the death of nearly all its players meant that the club would never truly be the same again. At the time, the Torino players were of the highest calibre in football; forming most of the Italian national side and they were the reigning champions in Italy.

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At the time of the crash, the team was returning home from playing in a benefit match from Lisbon. In the 1940s, Torino were the darling of Italy; a glamorous and successful side which had caught the nation's imagination. After the disaster, an astonishing 300,000 people turned up on the streets of Turin to pay their respects. 

They were known as 'Grande Torino', and shortly before the crash they had won the league with four games to do; the club's fifth consecutive Scudetto. 

 

Italy was a country in need of positive role models after suffering under fascist rule. In an atmosphere of grinding poverty, football was the only form of entertainment and hope for many. 

Torino's stars like Valentino Mazzola and Ezio Loik enchanted the city of Turin, and footballing prowess was there for all to see. They were the first ever Italian team to win the domestic double in 1943, and one of the first Italian teams to be invited abroad for friendlies.

Mario Carlini / Iguana Press/GettyImages

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When Italy faced Hungary in 1947, all ten outfield players were from Torino. Mazzola, the captain for both club and country, was the chief inspiration for Italy - and some regard him as the best Italian player of all time. After the Superga Air Disaster, Italy would have to travel to the 1950 World Cup without their core. Italian football was in ruins, and the disaster deeply scarred the mentality of the nation. 


Such was the trauma caused by the catastrophe that the national side travelled to the 1950 World Cup in Brazil by boat, a journey that took two weeks and left the squad in such a poor state of fitness that they exited the tournament after just one game.

Had the disaster never happened, it is obvious that Italy would have been a huge contender for the 1950 World Cup. Essentially, they had lost their entire team, and would have to rebuild from scratch. The aftermath of the Superga Air Disaster meant that Italy would not win another World Cup until 1982 - three decades after the tragedy that took place in Turin.

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Italy was robbed of its greatest team, one not too dissimilar from Milan in the 1990s or the Juventus side of recent years. Today, Torino still mark the date of the disaster every year by visiting the site of the crash, where they pay tribute along with fans. 


As shown by Italy's poor World Cup in 1950, the nation had not recovered. A disaster that had taken the lives of the country's brightest prospects, at a time when Italy was on its knees financially and on the world stage, was a sickening blow for football all over the globe. 

If the disaster never happened, we could speculate that Italy would have more than the four FIFA World Cups it boasts today. However, the true loss of this tragedy was not the Italian football team, nor Torino FC, but the thirty one men who never returned home.


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