its my turn now!!
The football field is not normally a place where family values flourish. The single-minded pursuit of the self that the game requires can often escalate sibling rivalry to a whole new level. And history is littered with the stories of sporting sons who could never live up to the reputation of their famous forebears. More often than not, it seems, you are better off leaving the family baggage on the touchline.
That is what makes the story of Valentino and Sandro Mazzola so singularly exceptional. Both father and son were players of the highest calibre who wrote themselves ample chapters in the history of the Italian game. On the field of play, at least, no family has made quite such an impact.
Perhaps it was their unique story which helped young Sandro follow and even surpass many of his father’s achievements. Valentino lost his life in the Superga air crash in 1949, leaving his young family to fend for themselves. In many ways it was a case of the young man carrying on the work his father had started rather than struggling to live up to his reputation.
Although both players donned the No 10 shirt their footballing stories and styles could hardly have been more different. Mazzola senior was a robust figure as the game in the immediate years around World War 2 required. An inspirational character, he was also gifted with great skills and a scoring ability which was second to none in the era in which he played. Sandro was, in appearance at least, a more frail figure. But the same skills shone through in his play and also guaranteed him more than his fair share of goals.
Valentino’s footballing story began with the Alfa Romeo factory team in Milan, but it was only when military service took him to Venice in 1939 that he really started to break through. The lagoon team were starting to build an interesting side - which would take their one and only major honour in 1941 with the Coppa Italia. It was there that Mazzola teamed up with his ‘twin’ attacker Ezio Loik. Born on the same day, they both transferred to Torino in 1942 and would both die in the plane crash of 1949.
Before that terrible day Valentino established himself as the greatest player of his generation. Five League championships, a couple of Italian Cups and over 100 Serie A goals, despite the disruption of the war, were the hallmark of his quality. He was killed at the age of 30 when there was still surely a lengthy international career ahead of him and his Grande Torino teammates. In his last interview before the crash he shared his view of the game with a local Portuguese reporter.
"I have to say that I consider football to be a very simple game," he said. "You will win as long as you don’t always play in the same way. You have got to add some variations to make your game more dynamic. There has to be room for improvisation outside of classical tactics. But I am of the opinion that modern football must be above all a team game."
His theories have been echoed in the sport throughout the rest of the century and beyond. And even though Sandro was only seven when he lost his father it is clear that the man had a huge effect on his son prior to the dreadful events of May 1949.
"Every time I think of that day it hurts, I feel an awful pain in the pit of my stomach and I can do nothing about it," admitted Mazzola junior. "The fact is that you try not to think about it and put it at the back of your mind but whenever the anniversary comes around all the bad memories come flooding back."
Still, part of that legacy were the footballing skills which had evidently been transferred from father to son. They also shared a strength of character required to reach the very top of the game. Sandro would be the first to recognise his debt to his father.
"Almost since the day I was born my dad would help me put my boots on and take me along to training, I was a mascot," said Sandro. "There must be something in the genes because he certainly transmitted his love of football to me."
The young Sandro was always likely to be the focus of attention given his famous father and Inter were happy to find a place for him in the all-conquering side they were building. Despite making his debut in a record defeat - the 9-1 hammering from Juve in a match where Inter fielded their youth team - he was destined to mark the club’s history like few others before him.
Inter were desperate to make their mark in Europe and Mazzola delivered the extra class they needed to make that leap forward. Back-to-back European Cups and World Club Cups cemented both the Nerazzurri’s and their No 10’s reputation at the highest level.
An undisputed legend at club level, things never quite went as easily for Mazzola with the national team. Continual indecision between himself and Milan’s Golden Boy Gianni Rivera meant he did not quite make the impact he might have. Still, 70 caps and 22 goals were a fairly major contribution. Mazzola was also part of the 1968 European Championship winning side and the team so cruelly destroyed by Pele’s Brazilians in the 1970 World Cup.
After retirement in 1977 there was no question of Mazzola disappearing from the game and he covered a number of roles for Inter. With more than 400 games and 116 Serie A goals they were unlikely to discard a man who became a symbol for the club. But lately a new temptation has drawn him away from the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza and back towards his family’s past. A post with Torino beckoned and Mazzola could not resist trying to rebuild a great team with one of the grandest old clubs of Italy. If anyone can achieve it, then probably a Mazzola can.
STAR RATING 8/10 Because of the Superga disaster, Vincenzo Mazzola never got the chance to complete his football career. But he was a truly inspirational figure of his time. Son Sandro also had to contest his position with Gianni Rivera, but his 77 caps prove his claim to fame.
Born: Cassano D’Adda (Milan), 26/1/19. Died: 1949. :down:
Position: Attacking midfielder.
Serie A debut: Lazio 1-0 Venezia, 31/3/40
Clubs: Venezia, Torino
International debut: Italy 4-0 Croatia, 5/4/42
International caps: 12
International goals: 4
5 Scudetto (1943, 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949)
2 Coppa Italia (1941, 1943)
1 Serie A Capocannoniere (1947)
Born: Turin, 8/11/42
Position: Attacking midfielder
Serie A debut: Juventus 9-1 Inter, 10/6/61
4 Scudetto (1963, 1965, 1966, 1971)
2 European Cups (1964, 1965)
2 Intercontinental Cups (1964, 1965)
1 European Nations (1968)
1 Serie A Capocannoniere (1965)
International debut: Italy 3-0 Brazil, 12/5/63 :cheesy:
International caps: 70
International goals: 22