Juventus v Torino: The lost derby

Ogo Sylla Date:29th November 2014 at 10:00am
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Everyone loves a David and Goliath story; but in Torino going up against Juventus in Sunday’s derby, it is like David taking up his staff and sling to a Goliath in an Iron Man power-suit.

Does a derby stop being one once the rivalry becomes so one-sided that the underdog only has slim-to-no chances of winning? The Turin derby — also know as Derby della Mole — between Juventus and Torino faces such a philosophical dilemma, with the Bianconeri being galaxies ahead of their city rivals.

Juventus have been the dominant force of the two, with Torino’s last win dating back to the double they managed over the Bianconeri in the 1994-95 season. Moreover, Torino’s last goal dates back to the 2001-02 season. Finally, in the 20 years since Torino’s last win, the Granata have only managed four draws (out of 16 matches).

So indeed, in such a lop-sided clash, can the Turin derby still be called a derby? It would be difficult to deny the fixture that name of course. After all, this is the oldest Serie A derby. Juventus first played Torino on January 13 1907, the Granata’s first competitive match following their founding a year prior. There also exists a socio-economic dimension born of history — like it often is the case with many of football’s other derbies around the world — as the clash represents the proletariat (Torino) against the bourgeoisie (Juventus).

In fairness, only the element of competitiveness lacks in this game. But if we accept that the notion of “derby” entails more than geographical proximity and socio-economic or socio-political cleavages, then the fixture no longer fulfills all the requirements of being a genuine derby. The issue is that the element of competitiveness is rather paramount. It is indeed rare to see such a pronounced disparity between two city rivals, and even more so over such a protracted period of time.

Today Juventus are three-time Scudetto champions with a squad far beyond Torino’s, especially after the summer sales of Ciro Immobile and Alessio Cerci. The Granata are 15th and only three points above the relegation zone. For a derby to be called as such, a rivalry must exist. Rivalry implies competition; none exists between Juventus and Torino today.

The fact that Sunday’s Juventus v. Torino game will feature at 18:00, and not in the primetime 20:45 slot, says a lot about how much the perception of the fixture has suffered from the lack of competitiveness. Instead, it is Roma’s game against a struggling ninth-place Inter team that was chosen as the standout fixture of Serie A match day 13.

Of course it is neither Juventus or Torino’s faults that the Turin derby has lost a lot of its meaning. Overall Juventus have recorded 95 wins while Torino have 75, with 62 draws between them. Juventus scored 348 goals and Torino scored 309. The statistics do hint that the rivalry was far more competitive in past times.

Before the tragedy of Superga, Torino enjoyed a period of superiority until Juventus reversed the tendency through the 1950s. The most successful Torino period came in the 1970s, when Juventus remained winless for six years, including four consecutive losses the Bianconeri suffered in the 1975-76 season.

It just happens that between those decades, Juventus’ relegation after Calciopoli, and Torino teetering between Serie A and Serie B, both clubs have taken dramatically opposite trajectories. As such, Juventus’ recent dominance over their city-rivals has erased much of the meaning behind this derby.

In effect recent derbies are nothing more than footnotes, with the more memorable clashes being those that were — ironically enough just as the Bianconeri kit — still in black and white. Today, the Turin derby has become little more than Juventus taking on another bottom-table Serie A club.

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