West Ham of England and Italian national team defender, Angelo Ogbonna, has revealed reasons he chose to represent Italy instead of Nigeria.
The 31-year-old Ogbonna has 13 caps for Italy and represented the country at two major tournaments but decided that representing Italy was a better option than Nigeria.
Born in Cassino to Nigerian parents who are both from Owerri West in Imo State, Ogbonna’s parents emigrated from the West African to Italy in the 1980s, before the player himself was born, settling in the town of Cassino in the southern province of Frosinone.
Ogbonna made his debut for Italy’s senior national team in a friendly against Poland in November 2011, then played his first senior match for Italy when he started in a World Cup qualifier vs Bulgaria in September 2012.
Sharing his view on racism and why he opted to represent Nigeria, Ogbonna told West Ham’s official website : ‘
“For me, I’m very, very proud to be a black man in 2019,”.
“People can talk about a lot of things, and be racist, but you must understand that you cannot change your destiny.” Ogbonna said.
“There is a lot of ignorance, racism and discrimination, whatever you want to call it. In Italy, there a lot of issues, both racial and regional, but these people are just trying to find excuses and to blame someone for not being good enough themselves. They just want to put you down.
“As black people, we are held back by our past, because in our past we were slaves and that can never be forgotten and never leave our minds. However, actions can be taken to change things.
“I grew up with Nigerian parents, but I chose to play for the Italian national team because I felt that was right.
“Whether you are black, Asian or whatever, you should be proud. I always say, we should be focused on the important things, which are not black or white. We are the same people. We all laugh and we all cry. For me, there is no difference.”
Ogbonna, also revealed that he has not forgotten his own heritage.
“Of course, African culture and Italian culture are different, when you compare them,” he continued. “And then you have Nigerian culture and English culture, which are different but related because Nigeria used to be a British colony.
“I was brought up with two different cultures, African and European, and I think I am totally open and I am always looking to learn more about other cultures.
“For example, I went with my family to Japan this summer, and then to China with the squad for the Premier League Asia Trophy, and I was so impressed with the Asian culture.
“There are lots of interesting things to know about the world.”