The Italian national team, fresh off the back of their historic 2022 World Championship win, returned to Italy today to a triumphant welcome. The world championship-winning team, led by coach Fefè De Giorgi, landed in the morning on a charter flight at Rome’s Fiumicino airport, before being received at the Quirinale by the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella, who once again showed his great interest in sporting achievements, in particular those regarding the Italian national volleyball teams.
The Head of State began: "World champions, welcome to the Quirinale. My most affectionate, intense and heartfelt compliments. It was an unforgettable evening". Sergio Mattarella then recalled: "Last year I received many of you as European champions, in another hall together with the female team. To see you here once again, with the addition of a few new faces this year, is very satisfying. I try to follow volleyball when I can and I followed the comments and criticisms in the days leading up to the World Championship: you have been described as a very young team, so much so that my age makes me feel uncomfortable alongside you. I remember the 1998 World Championship very well".
The President of the Republic also praised the coach Ferdinando De Giorgi: "Winning three World Championships as a player was quite a feat, but winning one leading from the sidelines is even more of a challenge. I really admired the way you addressed the team during the games. I saw coaches from other national teams who showed disappointment and gestures of reproach, with imperious attitudes ... your cool-headedness helped to keep the team calm". Mattarella continued, with a touch of irony: "Last night I saw you from the first serve to the final net by the Poles. Having let the Poles take the first set was a nice, courteous gesture for the very sporting Polish people. These are typical traits of volleyball: fair play and mutual respect. It sets an example to all other sports, some of which have these traits, others less so...".
Equally weighty words were expressed by CONI President, Giovanni Malagò: "We are very pleased. When it was decided yesterday to arrange this meeting with the protagonists of the Volleyball World Championship, I found in you (addressed to Mattarella ed.) great interest and sensitivity for your love of sport, and volleyball in particular. In fact, you told me ‘Let’s organise the meeting regardless of whether they win or not.’ An incredible team, with an average age of 24, conceived by the formidable intuition of President Manfredi, which I believe proved decisive, placing De Giorgi at the helm of this national team, and adding a further World Championship to the three already won as a player".
Speaking on behalf of the Italian men's national team were President Giuseppe Manfredi, coach Ferdinando De Giorgi and captain Simone Giannelli. All three expressed their thanks to the Head of State, hoping to be received again in the future.
After the encounter with President Mattarella, the Italian national team moved on to Palazzo Chigi to be greeted by Prime Minister Mario Draghi:
"President Malagò, President Manfredi, Technical Commissioner De Giorgi, dear players, dear champions, welcome to Palazzo Chigi, indeed I should say, welcome back. A year ago you were here, with your colleagues from the women's national team, celebrating an incredible double European title. Today you arrive as world champions after a thrilling tournament. In the final you beat a very strong team playing at home, on a court where you had already been European champions.
I wish to congratulate each one of you, on behalf of the government, but also personally. As Giovanni Malagò said, I am very fond of sport and therefore the fact that I was there last night was a sign of my willingness and my desire. After 24 years you have brought the men's world title back to Italy, you have entered into the history of volleyball and into the history of Italian sport more widely. Thank you for all the thrills you have given us and for the emotions you gave me last night.
This triumph is yet another demonstration of the formidable state of health of volleyball today in Italy. After the disappointment of the Olympics, your movement has restarted with determination and doggedness. It has drawn from the experience of difficulty, disappointments and even defeats. And it has been renewed, as only great traditions can be. As well as you, credit must go to your coach, Ferdinando De Giorgi, to the physical trainers, to all the staff, and to the Federation who were capable of putting together a world class team in such a short space of time. I also wish to mention your captain, Simone Giannelli, whose performance was rewarded with the player of the tournament award. Congratulations Simone! Your growth reminds us of what young Italians are capable of. You have shown cool-headedness in tough times, lucidity and awareness of what we have at our disposal. You are not only professionals, but great champions.
In the past I have joked that, at the beginning of this government, Italy won everything, won gold medals at the Olympics, the European Volleyball Championship, Eurovision and even the Nobel Prize in Physics. And then, from that magical moment onwards, things began to fade: a series of disappointments in the field of sports. So, along with the athletes who triumphed at the European Swimming Championships in Rome, you have broken this negative spell. Sport, as you know better than me, has ups and downs. You are the living proof that, sooner or later, true champions get back to their winning ways. Team spirit, unity of purpose and the desire to work well together always pay off, and not just in sport. This is a great sign for the whole of Italy. Thank you".