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Marymount - International School Rome

Italy volleyball star Paola Egonu takes time out over racism

Italian premier Draghi offers Egonu his full support.

Political leaders in Italy, including outgoing premier Mario Draghi, expressed solidarity with Paola Egonu on Sunday after the Italian volleyball star threatened to quit the national team over racist abuse on social media.

A video posted on Twitter on Saturday showed 23-year-old Egonu, who was born in Italy to Nigerian parents, in tears as she spoke to her manager moments after helping her team win a bronze medal in the world championships.

“This is my last game with the national team" - Egonu is heard telling her agent -“You can’t understand. They asked me why I am Italian.”

The footage went viral and prompted a flurry of statements from senior politicians and sporting figures in Italy, assuring Egonu of their full support.

Egonu, who became an Italian citizen at 14 after her father obtained an Italian passport, later clarified that she would be taking time out to reflect on the situation.

Prime minister Draghi telephoned Egonu to offer her his "full solidarity", describing her as "the pride of Italian sport" in statement released by his office.

Giovanni Malagò, president of Italy's Olympic committee CONI, also pledged his support and urged Egonu "not to make any hasty decisions", reports news agency ANSA.

The leader of the centre-left Partito Democratico, Enrico Letta, tweeted an image by Mauro Biani, who specialises in social and political illustrations, showing Egonu dressed in the Italian tricolour alongside the word Azzurra.

Giuseppe Conte, leader of the populist MoVimento 5 Stelle, offered his solidarity to Egonu and condemned the "vulgar words" against her from "squalid individuals".

The leader of the right-wing Lega party, Matteo Salvini, also sent a "strong hug" to Egonu, "champion on and off the field, to whom we wish many more victories with the Tricolour on her chest".

The case comes as Italy prepares to usher in a right-wing government whose coalition parties have long ignored calls from the left to ease the nation's restrictive citizenship laws.

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