Inter vs Juventus – The Derby d’Italia
The phrase was first used by renowned Italian football journalist Gianni Brera in 1967 to describe the fixture between the two sides who had the most international and national honours in Italian football.
Although Derby d’Italia may have lost some of its original meaning, at the time it was seen as an endorsement to the two most prestigious outfits in the league.
Although the term Derby d’Italia wasn’t used until 1967 the rivalry between the two has always been fierce, going all the way back to the 1930s when they wrestled for domination of Italian football. If this was the starting point of aggressions between them, then the chaos surrounding the end of the 1960/61 season turned the rivals into bitter enemies.
With the 1960/61 season drawing to a close the title race was still alive, with Inter and Juventus the main contenders. The pair met on April 16, 1961 in Turin in a match which would effectively decide the title. The stadium was packed, with supporters even sitting next to Inter coach Helenio Herrera on the bench.
With so many people rammed into the stadium it seemed inevitable that passions would spill out onto the pitch. After half an hour when an Inter shot hit the post it sparked a small pitch invaison, causing the referee to abandon the game and resulting in Inter being awarded a 2-0 win, putting them top of the table. However, on the June 3, with only one game of the season left Juventus won their appeal and the game was ordered to be replayed.
Going into the last round of fixtures Juventus had a two point lead at the top. The Bianconeri went on to win a 12th title as a draw with Bari was enough as Inter amazingly lost 2-0 at Etnei.
The replay was scheduled for June 10. Inter president Angelo Moratti was still fuming over the fact that the Italian Football Federation had reversed the original decision to give Inter the points, and his mood wasn’t helped by the fact that Umberto Agnelli, an influential member of the federation, was also heavily involved at Juventus. Moratti felt that Agnelli had used undue influence to swing the decision in his clubs favour, and who can blame him. Moratti ordered manager Helenio Herrera to play the Primavera team in protest at the decision, who got whooped 9-1.
Inter did exact their revenge in the ’62 season by doing the double over the Turin side on their way to the Scudetto, but it didn’t enable them to forgive or forget the turmoil of the previous season.
The events of 1960/61 served as the dividing line between the clubs and controversy has never been far from the games ever since. The Derdy d’Italia has also provided the fans with some great games and provided a platform for players to stake their place in each clubs history.
Some of the most notable players to make their names in the derby played in the 60s. Omar Sivori scored 135 goals in 215 outings for Juventus and famously plundered six goals in one game against Inter – albeit against the Primavera side in the 9-1 demolition. That game also marked the end of another Juve icon, Giampiero Boniperti (178 goals in 444 games), who hung up his boots and quit the game after the match.
Future legend Sandro Mazzola grabbed the consolation effort for Inter that day, but was lucky to actually make the game. He had an accounting exam the morning of the game and managed to get a club car to drive him to Turin for kick off afterwards. In more recent times Zlatan Ibrahimovic has played for both teams, starting at Juve but being snapped up by Inter when Juve were relegated.
In the derbies wearing the colours of Inter, Ibrahimovic has mostly left his mark by trying to batter his old team mates into the ground rather than for any footballing achievement.
The 1998 fixture at the Stadio delle Alpi will be remembered for some dubious refereeing calls, especially the decision not to award a stone-wall penalty when Ronaldo was taken out in the box. To rub salt in the wounds Juventus were later awarded a penalty in the game and went on to win, going on to claim the Scudetto. This made the Nerazzurri’s blood boil, as they accused Juventus of receiving ‘favourable’ decisions from referee’s all season. The game even caused a punch up in Parliament when deputies from opposing parties let their passions spill over when debating match fixing.
Aside from the controversial meetings in 60/61 and the ’98 season another classic encounter came in 2009. The build up to the game was marred by fears about Juventus ultras racially abusing Inter’s Mario Balotelli, who had already been subject to racist chants due to his African heritage. Feeling pressure to try and diffuse the situation before the game Juventus president Jean – Claude Blanc wrote to fans requesting them to abstain from racist chanting.
It didn’t take long for matters on the pitch to get out of hand. In a particularly bad tempered meeting there were numerous clashes between the players, especially Gianluigi Buffon and Thiago Motta. Jose Mourinho was sent to the stands in the first half for arguing with the referee and seven yellows and one red were dished out on the pitch. Claudio Marchisio scored in the second half to give The Old Lady victory.
Until 2006 the derby was contested by the only two teams never to have been relegated from the top flight. However, after the Calciopoli scandal resulted in Juventus being relegated, Inter became the only team to have started every season in the top flight (although they were actually relegated in 1921/22, but some creative tinkering with the rulebook meant they didn’t actually drop down to Serie B).
The 2006/07 season was the first in which the Derby d’Italia wasn’t played, but it didn’t stop the fires being stoked. Inter were quick to take advantage of the Old Lady’s relegation, capturing Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Patrick Viera on cut price deals, as well as collecting the previous years Scudetto that Juventus had stripped from them.
The Derby d’Italia has been played for over a 100 years now, with the games providing controversy, corruption and epic encounters. It’s impossible to tell what next years meetings will bring, and it’s hard to believe that future games could surpass previous encounters in terms of controversy on and off the pitch. Then again, who would have predicted the events of ’61 and the effect it would have on Italian football?