Charlie Di Bartolo’s first memory of kicking a football was in the streets and parks of Torino (the Italian name of Turin) in the 1940’s, where as a young 7 year old he would gather with mates in make up games. Torino, the home of Italian football giants Juventus, was an industrial city, and also home to the manufacturing might of Fiat – a prime bomb target during World War II.
Di Bartolo’s parents decided to gather the family and headed south, bound for the safer Sicily. Not far into the 1500km journey, the train in which they were travelling came under air attack. Seeking shelter in a tunnel proved effective, but the tunnel was not long enough and two rear carriages remained exposed. The bombing tore these carriages apart. Di Bartolo and his parents were lucky to be in one of the safe forward carriages. The train’s operators uncoupled the twisted wreckage and pressed on.
In Sicily, Di Bartolo joined his first club, Naxos. He recalls as a 9 year old youngster, often being asked to play for some of the bigger clubs on the island, in what he laughingly referred to as “guest appearances.”
After the war, and with heads raised high in hope, the family moved to Australia, arriving in Adelaide in 1950. Di Bartolo was thrilled to learn there was a Juventus in Adelaide and wasted no time approaching the club asking if he could play. Rapidly working his way through the junior ranks, he debuted for 1st Grade off the bench in the winning Cup Final of 1953.
From there Di Bartolo became an integral member of the very successful team of the 1950’s, winning multiple Championships and Cups, mostly playing in the position of right fullback. He enjoyed immensely his time and remained loyal to the club as a result. On many occasions he was lured by opposition clubs, even recalling a most attractive offer. “At the end of 1954, I had a visit from Lion, asking if I would come and play for them” he recalls. “I said I wasn’t interested. Then they opened a bag and took out 400 pounds in cash and put it right in front of me, 400 pounds! That was a lot of money in 1954! I gazed at it one more time, looked up, and said no thankyou.”
Despite the financial offers, the game was essentially amateur but payments still occurred, if not in the most conventional ways by today’s standards. Di Bartolo’s wife Phillis takes up the story; “In those days there was no prize money, and the major sponsor was Rothmans. They would award players and teams with product. By the end of the season our linen cupboard had no room for sheets, it was full of cartons of cigarettes!” she exclaimed.
Di Bartolo went on to represent South Australia and captained the side for some 7 years. He also played for Australia but was at times curtailed in appearances as he waited for naturalisation, a time period of 10 years living in Australia needing to pass. In 1983 he was awarded the Hall of Fame Inductee.