Thursday, June 15, 2006

Forza Granita!


Holy crap. Overlooked in the World Cup hullaballoo is the fact that Torino - tiny, sad Torino - has made it back up into Serie A.

Twelve months ago, Italy's Team of the 40s were promoted to Serie A, only to be denied after it was discovered they had paid lowly Venezia to throw a game late in the season. Now, forced into a playoff against Mantova and down 3-1 after the first leg, they came back in front of a crowd of 59,000 at the Delle Alpi to win the tie (note to Juve fans - that playoff match had a higher attendance than any Juve game this season...).

Torino, for non-italophiles, is Manchester United if the reds hadn't recovered from Munich. In 1949, the entire team - which had dominated the first few years of postwar Italian football and formed the core of the Azzurri squad expected to attend the 1950 World Cup - died when their airplane ploughed into a hill at Superga, north of Torino. Since then, they have won only one title (75-76) and in recent times have spent more time in Serie B than in Serie A.

They have also seemed cursed in other ways; in the late 60s, their rising young star Gigi Meroni -arguably destined to have become Italy's George Best - was killed in a traffic accident by a man who - absurdly - later became Torino's President.

So, Torino in Serie A, Juve in Serie B. Torino still won't be playing in their long-promised Filadelfia ground, but they will be playing a level higher than Juve, which is probably more than any Granita fan could wish for. Again, for non-italophiles - if you can imagine the mayhem on the Seven Sisters Road on the day Tottenham win the league and Arsenal are relegated - you have some idea of what kind of night it was in the Piazza San Carlo....

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