|Abiola Nnena Wabara has played for the "squadra azzurra" at both youth and senior level. Her first international appearance was in the 2000 European Championship for Young Women|
Italy international Abiola Wabara heard racist abuse while playing for Bracco Sesto Giovanni in a game against Pool Comense recently.
The 29-year-old of Nigerian origin, who was born in Parma and played college basketball in America at Baylor, was so shocked by the vitriol directed at her in her native country while playing the game she loves that she said: "I have played in front of 36,000 fans in the USA and I've never experienced something like that."
Players and fans all over the country are responding immediately.
They have decided to take part in the "I Want Black Skin" campaign launched by the Italian Basketball Federation (FIP).
In a statement, the FIP said: "The idea is born after the racist insults towards Abiola Wabara, player of Bracco Sesto Giovanni and of the national team.
"Starting from our solidarity with Abiola, the FIP wants to clarify loud and clear that it is against any type of racism.
"Basketball has always been characterized as multi-racial.
"The foreign players have allowed our sport to grow.
"The FIP has asked all the members of the basketball movement and the fans to paint their skins with a black sign, well visible, for the next round of league games, to represent the colors of all the races, for everyone to feel the same.
"Those that have already joined the campaign are the Lega Serie A, Legadue, National Basketball league, Legabasket Femminile, Usap, Giba and Aiap."
Wabara revealed that she has been targeted before.
|FIP President Dino Meneghin was outraged with the incident in Como. 'The most important thing in sport and in life is respect for others,' the Italian basketball legend said|
"It's not the first time this has happened since I have played in Italy from the age of 17," she said.
"Besides the insults, I was called an ape, a man went out on the court and was shouting at me: ‘Come here, come here.'"
FIP president Dino Meneghin stressed the importance of combating racism.
"This campaign represents the wish from the federation to condemn with strength racism.
"The most important thing in sport and in life is respect for others.
"Unfortunately there are still people that do not know what that means. The FIP will continue on this path so as to avoid that future episodes that are so serious will not be repeated.
"With this initiative we want to prove that the entire basketball movement, a sport that has always characterized itself as multi-racial, is not connected to any act of intolerance."
The incident is a disturbing reminder that racism still exists in the 21st century.
"I spoke with Abiola right after it happened," Meneghin said, "trying to make her feel at home.
"She is happy to be supported by the FIP and the Italian movement and of the attention given to this problem."
Geas Sesto San Giovanni and Wabara managed to put the incident behind them and beat Pool Comense 68-58 in that play-off quarter-final tie to advance to the next stage of the post-season.