‘They’re coming at you’: Paola Egonu on racism and volleyball | Racism

Adeyemi Adeyemi

International Courant

The Italian volleyball star talks to Al Jazeera about her purpose to be a voice for her group and encourage future generations

In Italy, volleyball participant Paola Egonu is a family identify; on the age of twenty-two, she carried the Olympic flag on the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics and holds the ladies’s world file for peak pace.

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In an interview with Al Jazeera’s Technology Sport, the 24-year-old revealed the challenges she confronted because the daughter of immigrants in Italy, and the explanation why she determined to step again from the Italian nationwide group in 2022.

Egonu was born in Italy to Nigerian mother and father and didn’t obtain Italian citizenship till the age of fourteen.

“I used to be grateful for what I had in Italy rising up… however I believe there are some little issues I want to change for my very own youngsters,” Egonu mentioned.

Aiming to offer her group a voice and present that she understands what some minority youngsters undergo, Egonu opened as much as Iman Amrani a few racist incident she skilled in kindergarten.

“I bear in mind I needed to go to the bathroom, so I went to my instructor and I mentioned, ‘Hey instructor, I have to go to the bathroom,’ and she or he mentioned, ‘No, you may’t’ and I repeated this thrice, after which I could not maintain on anymore,” she recalled.

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“And at that second the instructor got here as much as me and laughed at me and mentioned, ‘Oh my god, you odor so dangerous, black folks odor.’”

When Egonu’s mom got here residence, she informed her, “You all the time need to be one of the best, all the time clear, nicely behaved, the way in which you speak, you need to be good as a result of they may come for you.”

One of many world’s finest volleyball gamers, Egonu determined to take a break from the Italian nationwide group in 2022 after a racist response on social media following Italy’s defeat to Brazil within the semi-finals of the World Cup.

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“Studying and listening to about it made me doubt myself much more. And the worst one was: ‘Is she Italian?’ I used to be devastated,” Egonu mentioned.

After Italy gained the bronze medal by beating the US, Egonu collapsed whereas talking to her agent in a video that went viral on social media.

“They did not perceive that at that second I used to be not an athlete, however a woman who was injured, drained and crying,” she mentioned.

“They noticed it as if I used to be simply being spoiled, and I used to be simply behaving. I simply needed consideration. And that is what harm me essentially the most, as a result of sure, I am an athlete, sure, I am sturdy, however I am an individual and I’ve my very own feelings.

Decided to place this behind her, Egonu moved to Turkey and helped her membership, VakifBank, safe the CEV Champions League trophy.

“I can’t let somebody who would not know what it is wish to get up each day and combat for one thing you really consider in take that dream away from me,” Egonu mentioned.

Exterior of sports activities, Paola Egonu has collaborated with Emporio Armani and not too long ago co-hosted the Sanremo Music Pageant.

“I like dancing, I like style, I like assembly individuals who wish to dream large,” mentioned Egonu, seeking to the longer term. “I like to remain impressed.”

Technology Sport with Paola Egonu, offered by Iman Amrani, first aired on October 1, 2023 on Al Jazeera English.


‘They’re coming at you’: Paola Egonu on racism and volleyball | Racism

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