Monday, 6 January 2014

Match 1: Torino

Torino v Sassuolo, 25/8/13, Stadio Olimpico, Turin

Kilometres covered: Genova to Turin = 170km x four = 680km
Euros spent: €115

The first stop on my magical mystery tour of calcio was Turin, to watch Torino play newly-promoted Sassuolo. Previous to last season, I'd never heard of the visitors, and had to look them up on a map, and I'm afraid to say that I’m still not much the wiser. Somewhere near Modena seems to be the conclusion. Getting there won't be much fun as it'll involve three different trains, but that will be a pain in the arse for another day.

So, Il Toro was pick number one to get me started. In 1861, before bringing people together in their appreciation of his biscuits, Giuseppe Garibaldi was one of the leading players in the unification of Italy. Turin was to be the first capital, and so from a historical point of view, it could be argued that it would be the best, most logical place to start. In reality, the reason I chose Turin was because I thought it'd be the least maddeningly hot city to start off with in late August. The heat, it would later turn out, was not to be an issue.
Another bonus of Turin is that it's quite near my base in Genoa, so I could ease myself into 
the waters of football travelling and watching quite easily and without spending a lot of time or money to get there. That's dedication for you!

Originally formed in 1887 as a football and cricket club, it wasn't until 19 years later that the team that is recognised today as Il Toro was created. The symbol is a bull (hence ‘Il Toro’), while another sobriquet they have is I Granata, after the claret strips they wear. Most one-eyed supporters of whichever team would claim theirs to be one of the most important or storied clubs in the country, and while many of these would be guilty of rose-tinting in the name of their passion, the Torino supporters may have a point. The joint-fifth most successful club based on championship wins, they were a force to be reckoned with in the past. Their last glimpse of glory (excluding promotions) was in 1992 when they reached the UEFA Cup final, only to be bested by cleaning products' Ajax who scrubbed up better over two legs.

The greatest era of Torino Calcio was undoubtedly that of Il Grande Torino, the legendary five-in-a-row champions of Serie A between 1942 and 1949 (the seasons 1943-44 and '44-'45 were not recognised as being official Italian Football Association competitions, what with the war and all that). This period ended tragically when the plane that was carrying them from a friendly against Benfica crashed into the Superga hill near Turin, killing all 31 people on board. Only three squad members who had not made the flight remained.

On a more anglicised note, Il Toro were the club where Denis Law and Joe Baker used to lay their hats; Graeme Souness sat in the big comfy manager’s chair for 4 months in 1997 (so on second thoughts maybe it wasn't comfy enough); and for connoisseurs of shin-kicking, Pasquale Bruno hatchet-manned for them for three seasons following Italia '90.

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