Remembering the Superga Air Disaster, 75 Years Later

Widely regarded as football’s greatest tragedy, the 75th anniversary of the Superga air disaster was commemorated around the world, from Turin to Brooklyn.

If you find yourself kneeling in a church pew in the Basilica of Superga, you’ll be in awe of the high vaulted ceilings that seem to touch the heavens.

Its altar is decorated in ornate marble sculptures that are nearly 300 years old, perfect depictions of the baroque period in which they were created. It was constructed as a monument to the Virgin Mary after the Italian victory in the Battle of Turin, and houses the tombs of many kings and princes of Italian royalty.

While a basilica of this stature and history would perhaps be the definitive feature of most locales, Superga is unfortunately best known for a tragedy — the air disaster of 1949, which wiped out the storied Grande Torino team.

On a return flight from Lisbon, Torino touched down in Barcelona for refueling. The club met up with AC Milan for lunch during the stopover, before departing for Turin. Heading south over the mountains, the weather turned dire, with strong gusts of wind and heavy cloud cover that nearly reached ground level. New evidence suggests the pilots’ altimeter locked at 2,000 feet while going over 100 miles per hour.

superga air disaster

Lined up for the runway, the plane was pushed off its chart and crashed almost blindly at the footstep of the basilica, killing everyone on board. Nearly every player and coach from the Grande Torino side that had dominated Serie A and also made up for 10 of 11 starters in the Italian national team, were on the flight. A team that frequented the common cafes and cinemas, they were beloved for being one and bringing their community together. It’s widely considered the biggest tragedy in football history.

Vitorio Pozzo, who managed the Azzurri and was a Torino player as well, was tasked with identifying the bodies, which included Virgilio Maroso and Danilo Martelli, who together won three of Grande Torino’s five Scudetti from 1945 to 1949. Together until the end.

The Superga air disaster proves to be a commemoration that unites the Italian football community. Acknowledged each year around the memorial to the victims behind the basilica, it now spans across oceans and airwaves. With this year being the 75th anniversary, there were a few testaments that the team would never be forgotten, and just maybe, that something positive could be a recourse from that fateful day.

For the locals, Torino’s special “Superga 75” kit was released this past week, with just 750 limited editions put on sale in a crafted box, “designed to every detail,” according to the club. In order to not take away attention from the tribute, all sponsors agreed to have their patch blended into the dark red granata, with “full focus on the Bull.”

It’s an elegant kit crafted with respect. In the special edition shirt, Torino battled the high flying Bologna to a draw at the Grande Torino Stadium.

Across the Atlantic, the event was memorialized in New York City via Caduti Superga Mola Club, a social club with deep ties to the tragedy. Although stemming from Bari, the club was formed in Brooklyn around the same time as the Superga crash, and they, along with the stadium in the Mola area of Bari, honored the greatest team of their era by adding “Superga” into their names.

Along with Mola Club, Peter Curto of Supra Soccer Agency coordinated a match in memoriam. Getting the next generation in the mix via the Brooklyn Italians’ youth teams, the day started with a prayer from a local priest at the Verrazano Sports Complex in Brooklyn, which was then broadcasted globally and simulcasted live in conjunction with the events taking place in Torino in honor of the fallen players. It was televised throughout the United States on the Paramount+/CBS Sports Network. In attendance were the owners of recently promoted to Serie B Cesena, as well as the guys from Italian Football TV.


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“It was a year in the making,” Curto said. “We wanted to commemorate the fallen angels of the Caduti Superga. Given it’s the 75th anniversary, it’s a great tale to tell because I think a lot of people forgot about this legend, in the U.S. and in the Italian-American community.

“Now, a lot of the older members of the club are on their way out — maybe they have another 10-15 years before they pass on. The younger generations need to step up, so it’s a perfect combination of a little prayer service with father Alessandro from Brooklyn doing the memorial mass with the naming of the players. He’s a big fan and before priesthood he grew up playing soccer in the streets. The parish he grew up in was a small town in Calabria, and Domenico Berardi comes from the same town and parocchio.”

Torino sent jerseys for the kids playing in the commemorative match, and the club has mentioned that it wants to send full kits for the event next year. Curto hopes that this tradition can continue, and that the memorial event will grow year upon year.

Hopefully this is the start of more to come. The older generations have given us these platforms to keep bridging our culture together. Superga was the site that unified Italians together in old times, then the site of the tragedy that brought all Italians together, and even bridged the gap from its North to its South. Now in the next century, it’s vital that events like this keep the community alive and transform a tragedy into a show of cultural unity and strength.

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