In Italy, racist comments against world-class volleyball player Paola Egonu have sparked outrage and solidarity with the black athlete. The 23-year-old said at the weekend after winning the bronze medal at the World Cup that she had been attacked racistly on the Internet and that she no longer wanted to appear for the selection.
Egonu is "the pride of Italian sport," Prime Minister Mario Draghi's office tweeted after he called the athlete on Sunday. Other politicians and personalities also supported Egonu, currently one of the best volleyball attackers in the world.
Video footage shows how Egonu spoke to her manager on Saturday after winning the World Cup match for third place and said: “This is my last game with the national team,” Paola Egonu, a 23-year-old born in Italy of Nigerian descent, was heard telling her manager in a video posted on Twitter on Saturday.
She spoke after the team’s 3-0 victory over the US to secure the bronze medal. “You can’t understand. They asked me why I am Italian”.
Egonu was born in the northern Italian province of Padua to two Nigerian immigrants and has been an Italian citizen since 2014.
Il video shock con le dichiarazioni della Egonu 😡😡😡 Forza Paola 💪💪💪
Fonte video 📹 @whatsupban #MWCH2022 🏆 | #LaNazionale | #ItalVolley | #Egonu pic.twitter.com/DOoafTLbc1 — Eurosport IT (@Eurosport_IT) October 15, 2022
For years she has been one of the world's best attackers in volleyball. At the Tokyo Summer Olympics, she was one of the athletes who carried the IOC flag into the stadium. “It makes me laugh reading people who ask why I am Italian,” Egonu said in an interview with Sky Sport.
“I ask myself why I represent such people”. The attacks against Egonu signal “a stereotyped, racist mindset,” Italy’s anti-racial-discrimination office said in a tweet. “It’s called racism, they are called racists,” outgoing Equal Opportunities Minister Elena Bonetti said after Egonu’s comments.
After their phone call, Draghi said Egonu was “a pride of Italian sport” and that she’ll have “future opportunities to other trophies wearing the national team jersey,” he said on Twitter.