There is a moment when Miriam gives in to emotion. The question is harmless («How much is Paola Egonu’s friend?»), But it unleashes an inner storm and the answer proceeds between sobs and tears: «When in 2018 my mother passed away she told me she would give up everything and would come with me. It’s not for everyone: and you still played in Novara… ». It is not for everyone to even open their heart, however it takes little to grasp that Miriam, Fatima, Sylla (nothing “miraculous”: Fatima was the paternal grandmother) is a formidable girl. As well as the new captain, with African roots, of the Italian volleyball team. His is a film life, the story of integration and emancipation. In addition to pain, tenacity and redemption.
Captain, our captain: did you step into the role?
«Now yes, before it seemed to me that I was a thief and that I had stolen the part from Cristina Chirichella: I spoke to her. Going to the retreat I was then touched by the anxiety of not being up to it: it seems that nothing changes, instead it changes a lot. But just don’t think about it… ».
His family is now in Luxembourg.
“I haven’t seen my dad, who works on trains, my brother and my sister for two years. I miss my family and at 25 I lost a hinge: my mother is… my mother. And she died in my arms ».
What do you feel you have of the Ivory Coast?
«The roots: the bond will be eternal. I never got to know her, I’ll fix it. “
Is Miriam Sylla more Italian or more Sicilian?
“But if I’m Sicilian, am I not Italian?”
Indeed it is. It was to emphasize that Sicily played a central role.
«In Palermo there is my beginning and it is the place of the adoptive grandparents. He is sunny, warm, cheerful: he looks like me ».
“Special” grandparents called them.
«They are angels. My father was lucky to meet them. If my grandmother hadn’t given him a ride, what would I have been? ‘
«Dad had arrived in Bergamo. He slept at Caritas. But it was cold and my uncle was suffering: so they moved to the South. One evening that lady, driving home, saw my father and helped him. He began to work for the family, then my mother joined him: when I was born, these two people became fond of. At the nursery they showed my grandmother all the white babies. And she: “No, that’s the one there”. The nurse rolled her eyes… ».
Paola Egonu superstar. But doesn’t Miriam Sylla deserve equal attention?
«Paola is a shining star: a witch with eyes, of unparalleled expressiveness. It was born for volleyball. Me too, but a little less. But I don’t feel on the sidelines ».
Carlton Myers, standard bearer in Sydney 2000, a black boy, said: Italy is racist. Has the situation improved after 21 years?
«I would not like to cause controversy, I have been told several times to only be an athlete: however, a sportsman also has a thinking head. It is not possible to generalize, but not even to argue that Italy is not racist: I would be stupid to believe it ».
Forgive me if you hear the expression “nigger” used?
«Whether someone says it to insult or just to talk, I correct him. And I explain that my comrades made fun of me, emptied my backpack into the bus and didn’t let me sit next to them. I wouldn’t let him get away with it: I don’t hate, but I avoid forgiving ».
Is it true that at school he pulled the desks?
«My goodness, it has only happened once … Poverty reigned at home, I tried to be calm. I vented what I had inside at school: I wouldn’t do anything again, but you are wrong to learn ».
What do you think when you read about sinking migrant boats?
“That I could have ended up on a hull too. And my father could have been someone who worked in the fields for 2 cents an hour. ‘
She fought for jus soli …
“Shouldn’t I have? For 10 years I had a green passport, despite not having been to the Ivory Coast and having been born and lived in Italy. I had an identity crisis: am I Italian or not? ».
Is it true what a single mother would do?
“If I didn’t find the person to share my life with, I could do it.”
Is there a character you admire?
«Fiorella Mannoia. I went to his concerts: it transmits energy, positivity, strength. I’d like to look like her. ‘
Tastes and weaknesses of Miriam Sylla.
“After the pandemic, I appreciate even more being in company, chatting, saying something bullshit. I enjoy dressing my way: not too extravagant, but with style and following the mood. Yes, I also want to be nice. Weaknesses? I autoflagello ».
How is the story of coach Mazzanti’s “scratch cards”?
“He’s giving them away for the most difficult exercises: whoever does them better, gets them.”
Everyone wants you to win a medal in Tokyo.
“What people want, sorry, we don’t care. What we want counts. But if we weren’t ready in Rio, we are now reasonably competitive. In case of a podium I will cut my hair and make it blonde. If we win, I’ll tell you a good story ».