Volleyball, Miriam Sylla: “I’ll be the captain of a team of leaders”

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“In being a captain, I am only asked to be myself: Miriam.” It won’t change much, but together everything will change. Why Miriam Sulla will wear the headband, becoming the face and symbol of the women’s volleyball team competing for the Tokyo Olympics. A choice that the coach Davide Mazzanti explains how a huge recognition for the path she has made within the national team, but above all for the fact that “the energy she transmits is the most suitable one”.

Because when she takes the field, the player born in 1995 makes herself heard. From the home screens we have learned to recognize the grit, the incitement, the screams and the energy that make the place 4 in Conegliano an essential element for this Italy of which has been wearing the shirt since 2015 and with which he won a world silver and a European bronze. Fresh from an amazing season in which he won Champions League, Scudetto, Italian Cup, Italian Super Cup wearing the panther shirt of theImoco Volleyball now waiting for her is the most beautiful and important challenge, that of the five circles which, this year, will have an added value: they will be a symbol of recovery, restart, struggle and victory.

Three years have passed since the world championship that had left Italian sport pleasantly incredulous that it would never have hoped to see a young and inexperienced team like that of the women’s ItalVolley reach a world championship final. The “Terrible girls” in recent years they have grown, demonstrating a precious and rare union, a symbol of a team where every single person knows how to bring wealth within the group. That team that then also represented the symbol of a country in transformation, with new faces, surnames of foreign origin, today it is the blue face that has what it takes to win an Olympic medal. “The goal is big and the charge is great,” says Miriam Sylla.

How did the communication come to you and how did you receive it?
«The communication came from the coach Davide Mazzanti. He knows me, we have made a journey together, he believes that I can hold this position. For my part, however, I have never in my life imagined being a captain. Wearing the headband right now is a mix of responsibility and gratification. I am super happy and it is nice because we are not talking about me, but about the national team and therefore about the entire Italian volleyball movement ».

Why would he never have thought he could one day become captain of the national team?
«I never thought of becoming one even in a club, let alone in the national team! That for me is a role for those on the pitch who know how to be calm, keep calm. When I go down on the mondoflex, I put all the determination I am capable of, I scream, cheer, I do not stop and I did not think I could represent a point of reference with my character, even if in reality I am calmer off the pitch. I thought the captain was a figure far from my way of being. The appointment certainly took me by surprise because it had never been a thought or a goal, but it makes me really proud ».

Does Miriam Sylla feel more pressure or happiness?
«I am me and I don’t think that this role changes me in a particular way if not for its bureaucratic aspect. I can’t wait to get back on the pitch, yes, and with all the teammates with whom I share a goal called Tokyo. In the national team there are the best players in a country and being captain of the blue team is different than being in a club. Here everyone is as if he were his own captain capable of bringing to the team unique characteristics, typical of his personality ».

photo Galbiati – CEV

The “terrible girls” have grown in recent years. What is special about this group?
«From the world silver in which no one would have given us a euro to today, our team has always tried to bring out the best of itself by highlighting its best features. Each one has given a different facet to the group and this has made our team that reference model in which many guys reflect. The fact that each of us has a different characteristic and complementary character aspects, has allowed us to create a squad where everyone can recognize something of themselves. On a personal level, each of us has faced a different path made of victories, knowledge and experience, and 5 years after Rio it is nice to see what each of us has discovered ».

And what feature will you put on the field?
«I am not asked anything other than to be Miriam… and until proven otherwise, I know how to do this very well. I am also convinced that you don’t need a headband to be a leader. There are players who, while never passing from the role of captain, are equally points of reference within the group because they are leaders in their own way, each with something capable of dragging the group “.

There are high expectations for the team in Tokyo. Does this put pressure on you?
“We don’t want to listen too much to the expectations of others, but to think about ourselves and what we would like from us. If you start thinking about what others are saying about you and what they expect, you end up not thinking about what you want. I’ve always gone like a train to my beliefs. If I had listened to the rumors, I wouldn’t have even played this role in 4th place and probably wouldn’t have gotten very far. You also have to build yourself on a personal level. Pursuing one’s desires is something that should be applied to any area of ​​life ».

What captain will Miriam Sylla be and what will “her” national team be like?
“I don’t know what Captain I will be. It is a new experience and I hope to be a player able to always learn, to accept criticism and to be present in every situation, able to support my teammates at all times. This is why it is essential that I always remain Miriam. It is not “my” national team, it is our national team and I will carry it on until the end, together with the teammates with whom I grew up, with whom I have confronted myself in the league and in life. I hope a strong bond is created capable of withstanding all the elements and obstacles that, as is normal, we will encounter along the five-circle route and beyond ».

Originally from the Ivory Coast, hers is a story that passes through stories of poverty and events that have also seen her victim of racism. Do you also see this appointment as a kind of personal revenge?
“I’m happy to represent my nation and also to be a symbol of a country in transformation, but I don’t want this to become the central theme. We are in 2021 and we shouldn’t even be here talking if I feel more or less Italian. It should be the most normal thing in the world. I am and have always felt 100% Italian and I am convinced that what I think counts as regards myself. Now I am focused on the Olympic goal, which is worth much more than any speech or claims about the past. The victories are the only ones able to speak and conquering them with the blue jersey on is the greatest satisfaction an athlete can aspire to ».

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