Amongst the messages of condolences following the tragic #Plane crash in Colombia which destroyed the Brazil's #Chapecoense Brazilian club, Chapecoense there would have been messages from two other clubs which saw their own teams destroyed in a similar fashion. One was a great team at the height of its glory and the other was a young team that was considered the world’s next wonder team
Plane crash in Turin
On May 4, 1949 Italy’s Torino was returning to its home town Turin from a friendly match against Benfica in Portugal. The team was at the height of its sporting glory, having won the previous four championships and leading the ladder for its fifth to equal the record of home town rival Juventus for most consecutive national titles by one team.
Its captain Valentino Mazzola was considered Italy’s best player at the time and one of the best in the world. The team was also the basis for the Italian national team and in a recent international game its players comprised ten of the eleven players starting the international match against Hungary. With a thick fog over Turin the team was destroyed when the plane crashed into a hill overlooking the city near the Basilica of Superga where all the passengers were killed. The only player to survive was Sauro Tomà who did not take the flight due to injury.
Italian soccer mobilized for the team and, in a sign of respect, the other teams played their reserves against the Torino team to ensure that the survivors properly hhonoredthe memory of their fallen comrades with the title to equal the 5 consecutive wins that Fate seemed to have denied them.
While Torino still plays a prominent role in the Italian championship the team never regained its previous domination in the league and would only win the national title again in 1976.
Manchester United manager Matt Busby had built a team of young players with a huge potential that would go down in history as the Busby Babes. His dream was to take the European Cup, now known as the Champions League, from Spain’s Real Madrid and in half back Duncan Edwards they had a world class player that formed a formidable team that would never reach its full potential.
On February 6, 1958 the plane bringing back the team from Yugoslavia after a European Cup match against Red Star Belgrade made its scheduled refueling stop at Munich. Tragically the plane crashed on takeoff, killing 21 people, including 8 players and 8 journalists. One of those killed was Edwards who died 15 days after the crash. The death of the Babes shook world football. One of the survivors was Bobby Charlton who joined with Busby and the other survivors to ensure the dead were properly remembered, on the playing field.
Charlton would achieve this in two ways. The first was as a player for England who played a vital role in its World Cup win in 1966. But the greatest tribute to the fallen players occurred May 29, 1968 when the club finally managed to win the European Cup when it defeated Portugal’s Benfica at 4-1 at Wembley Stadium. There is no doubt that, as he lifted to trophy to the crowd that day, his thoughts were of his team mates from 10 years before who never had the chance to do so.
It’s strange that these two incidents have one thing in common, the presence of Benfica at vital moments of the history of the two clubs. It was the last team to play what the Italians now call the Great Torino and they were the opponent when Manchester United finally turned the nightmare of 1958 into a sporting triumph.
Let us all hope that Chapecoense also manages to recover from the trauma of the plane crash only three of them were football team members. and that they too honour the memories of those who died in the only true way possible, to live for the sport that they loved and to use their memory as a spur to future victories.