Showing posts with label Scudetto. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scudetto. Show all posts

10 January 2023

Aldo Ballarin - footballer

Brilliant defender who died in Superga tragedy

Aldo Ballarin became one of Italy's finest defenders
Aldo Ballarin became one of
Italy's finest defenders
Aldo Ballarin, one of the 18 Torino players who were killed in the 1949 Superga plane crash, was born on this day in 1922 in the fishing port of Chioggia, at the southern tip of the Laguna di Venezia.

Ballarin, whose brother, Dino, also died in the accident, played at right-back in the Torino team, making more than 150 appearances and winning the scudetto - the Serie A championship title - four seasons in a row between 1945 and 1949.

A defender who was renowned for his tackling and heading ability but who also used the skills he had learned as a winger in his youth to be an effective attacker, Ballarin won nine international caps in the azzurri of Italy.

He remains the only player born in Chioggia to play for the Italian national team.

One of six children in his family, Aldo would play football for hours in the street near his home as he was growing up. Of his three brothers, two would also play professionally. Dino, who was a little under two years younger than Aldo, was on Torino’s books as a goalkeeper.

At the age of 13, Aldo began playing for the youth team of Clodia, a local amateur club, before signing apprentice professional terms with Rovigo, a Serie C club about 55km (34 miles) from Chioggia. He then moved much further away to play for Triestina, based in the north-eastern city of Trieste in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region.

Ballarin (right), with Torino teammates Valentino Mazzola and Ezio Loik, line up for Italy
Ballarin (right), with Torino teammates Valentino
Mazzola and Ezio Loik, line up for Italy
It was with Triestina that he made his Serie A debut in 1941 at the age of 19. His 57 league appearances for Triestina were interrupted when the Italian championship was suspended in 1942 because of World War Two. In the interim he played for Venezia in the Alta Italia Championship.

By then, he was attracting the attention of many of Italy’s top clubs and his return to Serie A action with Triestina regularly drew talent scouts to his games. It was ambitious Torino, who had been crowned Serie A champions in the final season before the suspension, who wanted him most.

Under the presidency of Ferrucio Novo, the former player whose status in the city enabled him to attract much financial support, Torino were able to find 1.5 million lire to secure Ballarin’s transfer in 1945.

It was more than they had paid for Valentino Mazzola, the attacking midfield player who was their captain and who was regarded as one of the best players in Italy. Italian football had never seen so much money change hands for a right back.

But it proved to be money well spent as Ballarin became one of Italy’s most accomplished defenders. Had it not been for the tragedy of 1949, when the plane carrying the Torino team back from a friendly match against Lisbon in Portugal, crashed on its approach to the city’s airport in heavy, low cloud, he would doubtless have won many more international caps.

Aldo's brother Dino, who played in goal, also died in the crash
Aldo's brother Dino, who played
in goal, also died in the crash
Possibly due to a malfunction of his altimeter, the pilot was unaware that he was flying perilously close to the enormous Basilica of Superga, the 75m (246ft) high church built atop the hill of the same name. 

When the basilica became visible in the murk, it was too late to take evasive action. The plane did not hit the main structure of the church, built by Filippo Juvarra in the early part of the 18th century, but collided with a retaining wall on an embankment at the rear of the building. Only the tail of the aircraft remained intact.

All 31 people on board died, including 18 players, as well as the team’s English coach, Leslie Lievesley, and four other officials, plus three journalists.  Aldo Ballarin’s brother, Dino, who had yet to make his senior debut, was on the flight only because Aldo had convinced the management to take him to Lisbon as a reward for his hard work in training.

The crash not only robbed Serie A of the team that had become known as Il Grande Torino - the Great Turin - but the core of the Italy national team. Of the Torino first team, the only survivor was the left-back, Sauro Tomà, who missed the trip to Lisbon through injury. President Ferruccio Novo stayed at home because of influenza.

The Ballarin brothers were mourned as much in Chioggia as well as Turin. As a mark of respect, the town’s municipal stadium was renamed Stadio Aldo e Dino Ballarin.

Union Clodiense, the team that plays there, still wear the maroon shirts favoured by Torino, that were adopted by one of its predecessors, Union Clodia Sottomarina, in 1971.

The Stadio Aldo e Dino Ballarin from the air. The main part of Chioggia is in the background
The Stadio Aldo e Dino Ballarin from the air. The
main part of Chioggia is in the background
Travel tip:

Chioggia, where the Ballarin brothers were born, is an historic fishing port at the southern limit of the Venetian lagoon. It is accessible by boat direct from Venice, although the service runs each way only once a day. The most popular route is via ferry and bus along the length of the Lido island. Chioggia itself is actually a small island, linked by a causeway to the resort of Sottomarina.  Like Venice, Chioggia has a number of canals but, unlike Venice, it is not closed to cars. The main street, Corso del Popolo, has a number of churches and some fine fish restaurants. The Stadio Aldo e Dino Ballarin, which houses about 3,000 spectators, can be found on Via della Stazione.

Filippo Juvarra's magnificent Basilica di Superga stands on a hill overlooking the city of Turin
Filippo Juvarra's magnificent Basilica di Superga
stands on a hill overlooking the city of Turin
Travel tip:

The Superga tragedy is commemorated with a simple memorial at the site of the crash, at the back of the magnificent 18th century Basilica di Superga.  Mounted on a wall, the damaged parts of which were never restored, is a large picture of the Grande Torino team, with a memorial stone that lists all the names of the 31 victims of the disaster, under the heading I Campioni d’Italia.  Built between 1717 and 1731 for Victor Amadeus II of Savoy, the future king of Sardinia, the basilica fulfilled a pledge he had made to mark his victory over the French in the Battle of Turin, during the War of the Spanish Succession. The basilica’s elevated position means that it often sits serenely in sunlight while mist shrouds the city below. It can be reached by a steep railway line, the journey taking about 20 minutes.

Also on this day:

49BC: Caesar crosses the Rubicon

987: The death of former Doge of Venice San Pietro Orseolo

1834: The birth in Naples of historian and politician Lord Acton

1890: The birth of silent movie star Pina Menichelli

1903: The birth of sculptor and car designer Flaminio Bertoni

1959: The birth of football manager Maurizio Sarri

2009: The death of publisher Giorgio Mondadori


17 August 2018

Franco Sensi - businessman

Oil tycoon who rescued AS Roma football club

Franco Sensi was president of AS Roma for 15 years after rescuing the club from financial collapse
Franco Sensi was president of AS Roma for 15
years after rescuing the club from financial collapse
The businessman Francesco ‘Franco’ Sensi, best known as the businessman who transformed a near-bankrupt AS Roma into a successful football club, died on this day in 2008 in the Gemelli General Hospital in Rome.

He was 88 and had been in ill health for a number of years. He had been the longest-serving president of the Roma club, remaining at the helm for 15 years, and it is generally accepted that the success the team enjoyed during his tenure - a Serie A title, two Coppa Italia triumphs and two in the Supercoppa Italiana - would not have happened but for his astute management.

His death was mourned by tens of thousands of Roma fans who filed past his coffin in the days before the funeral at the Basilica of San Lorenzo al Verano, where a crowd put at around 30,000 turned out to witness the funeral procession.

The then-Roma coach Luciano Spalletti and captain Francesco Totti were among the pallbearers.

Sensi, whose father, Silvio, had helped bring about the formation of AS Roma in 1927 in a merger of three other city teams, grew up supporting the club and followed his father into a business career after graduating in mathematics at the University of Messina.

Francesco Totti was among Sensi's pallbearers
Francesco Totti was among
Sensi's pallbearers
He became a board member at the club in 1960 but left after less than two years following disagreements with fellow board members over football issues.

For the next few years he devoted himself to his business career, among other things founding the Italpetroli Company, which would become a major player in the oil and petrochemical sector.  He also had interests in publishing and real estate.

At the same time he developed a career in politics, serving as the Christian Democrat mayor of Visso, the small town in the Marche region where his family originated, for 10 years.

Sensi’s return to AS Roma came in 1993 season, when club president Giuseppe Ciarrapico had to step down following his conviction for financial crimes following the bankruptcy of one of his companies.

The club itself was mired in debt and on the brink of collapse. Sensi and his fellow entrepreneur Pietro Mezzaroma stepped in to save the club, Sensi becoming outright owner in November 1994 but then discovering its debts were even greater than he imagined, paying 20 billion lire to own the club but finding that the total owed to creditors was 100 billion lire.

Sensi negotiated a way to stability off the field and then set about rebuilding the team’s fortunes on the field.  He hired Carlo Mazzone as coach but though the team finished 7th in Serie A in the 1993-94 season, Sensi wanted better.

Mazzone gave way to Carlo Bianchi and in turn to Zdenek Zeman but success proved elusive until the arrival, in 1999, of Fabio Capello, a proven winner with an impressive coaching CV that included four Serie A titles with AC Milan in the 1990s, and the La Liga championship in Spain with Real Madrid.

Rosella Sensi took over the running of the club after her father became ill
Rosella Sensi took over the running of the club
after her father became ill
Capello arrived as part of a massive investment by Sensi that included retaining the services of Totti, the forward who would become a club icon, as well as bringing in the likes of top players Gabriel Batistuta, Walter Samuel, Emerson and Jonathan Zebina.

Sensi also hired Massimo Neri as a fitness coach, which meant the injury problems that had regularly hampered the team’s progress became much less frequent.  Capello set up the team to get the best out of their attacking talent and, with a solid defence marshalled by Samuel, he led Roma to the 2001 Scudetto.

It was not long, unfortunately, before Sensi’s health began to fail him and he handed control of the club to his daughter, Rosella, while continuing to oversee the operation as chairman as Capello’s success continued and returned under Spalletti, who won three trophies in his four years in charge.

Sensi's business achievements were honoured when the President of the Italian Republic made him a Cavaliere del lavoro in 1995 and many Italians believe he should have been appointed head of the Lega Calcio - the Italian Football League.

He is buried in the Verano Cemetery, close to the basilica and to the Sapienza University of Rome in the Tiburtino quarter of Rome.

The village of Visso, in the Sibillini mountains, where Sensi was mayor for 10 years
The village of Visso, in the Sibillini mountains, where
Sensi was mayor for 10 years
Travel tip:

The beautiful village of Visso, situated in the national park of the Sibillini mountains, boasts medieval buildings and Renaissance palaces. It is located about 80km (50 miles) southwest of Ancona and about 50km (31 miles) southwest of Macerata. At the heart of the village of the Piazza Pietro Capuzzi, where can be found the Collegiate Church of Santa Maria, which houses a number of medieval works of art. A short distance outside the village is the Sanctuary of Macereto, a Renaissance-style chapel or Marian shrine, built between 1528 and 1538.

The Basilica di San Lorenzo, where Sensi's funeral took place in August 2008
The Basilica di San Lorenzo, where Sensi's funeral took
place in August 2008
Travel tip:

The Basilica of San Lorenzo al Verano, also known as the Basilica of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, where Sensi’s funeral was held, is a shrine to the martyred Roman deacon San Lorenzo. An Allied bombing raid in July 1943 devastated the facade, which was subsequently rebuilt.  The Basilica is the shrine of the tomb of Saint Lawrence, who was martyred in 258. The Basilica is now known as one of the Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome. It can be found in the Tiburtino quarter, not far from Sapienza University of Rome.

More reading:

The glittering career of Fabio Capello

Marco Delvecchio - the AS Roma striker who became a dance show star

How Angelo Schiavio won Italy's first World Cup

Also on this day:

1498: Cesare Borgia shocks Rome by resigning as a Cardinal

1740: Prospero Lorenzo Lambertini becomes Pope Benedict XIV


9 August 2018

Filippo Inzaghi - football manager

World Cup winning player turned successful coach

Filippo Inzaghi took Venezia to the verge of a place in Serie A
Filippo Inzaghi took Venezia to the
verge of a place in Serie A
The former Azzurri striker Filippo Inzaghi, who was a member of Italy’s 2006 World Cup-winning squad, was born on this day in 1973 in Piacenza.

A traditional goal poacher, known more for his knack of being in the right place at the right moment than for a high level of technical skill, Inzaghi scored 313 goals in his senior career before retiring as a player in 2012 and turning to coaching. He has recently been appointed manager of the Serie A team Bologna.

Inzaghi came off the substitutes’ bench to score the second goal as Italy beat the Czech Republic 2-0 to clinch their qualification for the knock-out stage of the 2006 World Cup in Germany but found it impossible to win a starting place in competition with Luca Toni, Alberto Gilardino, Francesco Totti and Alessandro Del Piero in Marcello Lippi’s squad.

He also picked up a runners-up medal in Euro 2000, hosted jointly by Belgium and the Netherlands, where he scored against Turkey in the opening group game and against Romania in the quarter-final but was overlooked by coach Dino Zoff in his team for the final.

Inzaghi scored more goals than his hero Marco van Basten in his career with AC Milan
Inzaghi scored more goals than his hero Marco van
Basten in his career with AC Milan
His club career was one of success after success, principally during his time at Juventus and AC Milan.  A Serie A winner with the Turin club in 1998, he was twice a Scudetto winner with Milan, with whom he twice won the Champions League, beating his old club Juventus in the 2003 Final at Old Trafford, and overcoming Liverpool in the 2007 Final in Athens, when Inzaghi scored both Milan’s goals and was named Man of the Match.

Inzaghi’s goals tally, which includes 10 Serie A hat-tricks, is the seventh highest in Italian football history and he is the fourth highest goalscorer in European club competitions with 70 goals, behind only Raúl, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. His 43 goals in international fixtures for Milan, for whom he scored twice against Boca Juniors of Argentina in the 2007 Club World Cup final, is a club record.

At international level, Inzaghi earned 57 caps for the Italy national team between 1997 and 2007, scoring 25 goals.

The sons of a textile salesman, Inzaghi and his younger brother Simone, who would also go on to be a striker in Serie A and the Italy national team, were brought up in the village of San Nicolò, just outside the city of Piacenza in Emilia-Romagna.

Filippo - also known as ‘Pippo’ - grew up wanting to emulate Italy’s 1982 World Cup hero Paolo Rossi and later Milan’s great Dutch striker Marco van Basten.

Inzaghi (centre, No 9) and the rest of the AC Milan team celebrate winning the Champions League in 2003
Inzaghi (centre, No 9) and the rest of the AC Milan team
celebrate winning the Champions League in 2003
He began his career with his local club, Piacenza, where he became a first-team regular after a couple of spells on loan to lower division clubs. His 15 goals in 37 matches in the 1994-95 Serie B season earned his club promotion to Serie A.

Despite their success, Piacenza accepted an offer from Parma for their star striker. However, though he became a favourite with the fans, Inzaghi’s career under coach Nevio Scala stalled after an injury and he was sold on again after one season.

The next move, to Atalanta of Bergamo, brought his big breakthrough. Even though Atalanta finished only 10th in Serie A, Inzaghi scored 24 goals, which made him the league’s Capocannoniere - top scorer. Incredibly, he scored either home or away against every other team and was named Serie A Young Footballer of the Year.

The success earned him a 23 billion lire move to Juventus, where he would stay for four years, in which time he became the first player to score a hat-trick in the Champions League twice, helped the bianconeri win the Scudetto in 1997-98 with 18 goals and scored six times in helping the team reach the Champions League final, where they lost 1-0 to Real Madrid.

Inzaghi turned to coaching when he  retired as a player in 2012
Inzaghi turned to coaching when he
retired as a player in 2012
Despite his 89 goals in 165 games for Juventus, he eventually fell out of favour and was sold again in 2001, this time for 70 billion lire to Milan, where he suffered a knee injury early in his first season but returned to form a potent partnership with Andriy Shevchenko and later Kaká in the 11 years that would be the most successful of his career, ultimately overtaking his hero Van Basten on the list of the club’s all-time top goalscorers.

A serious knee injury meant his involvement in the 2010-11 title-winning season was limited.  Less frequently used as a first-choice striker, he was told he would not be retained at the end of the following season, at which point he announced his retirement, a month short of his 39th birthday.

He began his coaching career immediately as head coach of AC Milan’s Primavera (Under-19) team and took over as head coach of the first team in July 2014 after the dismissal of his former playing colleague, Clarence Seedorf, under whose stewardship the club had failed to qualify for either of the European club competitions for the first time in 15 years.

Inzaghi could not bring about an improvement, but his dismissal after one season enabled him to find his first success as a club manager with Venezia, in the third tier of the Italian league system, known as Lega Pro.

Venezia won Lega Pro in Inzaghi’s first season in charge and reached the Serie B play-offs in his second year, although they missed out on a return to Serie A.

Nonetheless, with an impressive win ratio of more than 50 per cent from his 95 matches in charge, it was no surprise when Bologna, 15th in the 2017-18 Serie A season, offered him a return to the top flight.

The Chiesa San Nicolò in Inzaghi's home village
The Chiesa San Nicolò in Inzaghi's home village
Travel tip:

Inzaghi’s home village of San Nicolò is a parish in the municipality of Rottafreno, which literally translates as ‘broken brake’ and often provokes laughter. It is thought the name may go back to the time of Hannibal and the Second Punic War (218-202 BC), when Hannibal was said to have been forced to spend the night in the village after his horse’s bit, which serves as a brake for the rider. Local people embraced the story so enthusiastically that the town’s municipal emblem includes the head of a horse with a broken bit.

Piazza Duomo in Piacenza
Piazza Duomo in Piacenza
Travel tip:

Piacenza is a city of 103,000 people in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy. The main square in Piacenza is named Piazza Cavalli because of its two bronze equestrian monuments by Francesco Mochi featuring Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma and his son Ranuccio I Farnese, Duke of Parma. The city is situated between the River Po and the Apennines, between Bologna and Milan. It has many fine churches and old palaces. Piacenza Cathedral was built in 1122 and is a good example of northern Italian Romanesque architecture.

More reading:

Marcello Lippi, Italy's 2006 World Cup-winning coach

Nevio Scala and Parma's golden era

The World Cup heroics of Paolo Rossi

Also on this day:

1173: Work begins on the bell tower that would become the Leaning Tower of Pisa

1939: The birth of politician Romano Prodi