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Gigi Meroni

Personal information
Full nameLuigi "Gigi" Meroni
Height1.70 m (5 ft 7 in)
Playing positionRight winger

     Home | Football | Gigi Meroni

Luigi "Gigi" Meroni (24 February 1943 - 15 October 1967) was an Italian football player who played for Torino. He died at the age of 24 after being hit by two cars while crossing the main street "Corso Re Umberto" near "Via Legnano" in Turin, Italy. His friend and teammate Fabrizio Poletti was also hit but survived. They had been celebrating a 4 2 win over Sampdoria at a nearby restaurant. While trying to get to a telephone to call his fiance Cristiana Uderstadt, he was clipped by a passing car and thrown onto the road where he was hit again by another car. One of his teammates, Lido Vieri, who had left earlier and lived on the same street, heard the accident and ran to his side. Although still alive, he was badly injured and died later. The driver of the car which hit Meroni was a 19-year-old Torino F.C. supporter who idolised him. He had a photo of Meroni in his car. The young driver was Attilio Romero who later became the Torino F.C. President in 2000.

Meroni was a butterfly on the field, a fantastic dribbler and an expert at nutmegging (threading the ball through the opponent's legs). His style and ability led to comparisons with Northern Irish star George Best.

Meroni had the ability to create goals from nothing. He would often pass the ball to his teammates in quick one-two movements that would unlock the opposing team's defence or he would take the ball past every defender himself, leaving his teammates as spectators. His famous "signature" goal against Internazionale at the San Siro in Milan in 1967 is still considered by many soccer journalists to be one of the best goals in the history of the Italian League. He managed to hook the ball past the best defender in Europe at the time in Giacinto Facchetti, which left both Facchetti and his goalkeeper Giuliano Sarti stunned. Meroni played for the Italian National side The Azzurri in the 1966 World Cup. He was famously denied from taking the field in the game against Korea DPR because it was considered that his hair was too long and his refusal to cut it had angered the coaching group. His teammate Natalino Fossati felt that had he played, he would have most certainly changed the outcome of that match. Following Gigi's death, Torino played the derby game against Juventus. As a tribute to Meroni, his good friend Nestor Combin scored a hatrick. Torino destroyed Juventus 4-0. Some Juventus supporters were so enraged that they vandalized Meroni's grave.

This act served to fuel the hatred between the two clubs which remains to this day. These derby games between Torino F.C. and Juventus F.C. are called the Derby della Mole and are often asscociated with violence.

Meroni loved to paint. He painted self portraits as well as a famous portrait of his fiance without eyes. When asked as to why he hadn't finished the portrait, his response was that Cristiana was "as beautiful as an angel" and he just could not express such beauty on canvas. He also had a certain style of dress that was individual and very much ahead of its time.

Gigi Meroni is still remembered with great affection in Turin and as a gesture of appreciation, the Turin council commissioned a monument to be built in his memory. "La stella del Calcio Granata e Nazionale" was unveiled in 2007 on the 40th anniversary of his death. It is placed permanently on the very street where he died.

Gigi Meroni played for Genoa from 1962-64 and for Torino from 1964-67 and broke into the Italian National side in 1966. The tragedy of his early death denied Torino its first Scudetto since the Superga tragedy of 1949.

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