Italy forward Pablo Osvaldo has hit back at right-wing politicians who accused him of being a “plastic Italian”.
The Argentine-born Roma striker looks set to make his Italy debut against Northern Ireland in Pescara on Tuesday having received his first call up for the national team by coach Cesare Prandelli.
He would have made his debut against Serbia in Belgrade on Friday but for an injury to midfielder Claudio Marchisio forcing Prandelli to change his plans on his final substitution.
But since being called up, Osvaldo has come under fire from some Lega Nord (Northern League) politicians who claim he shouldn’t be allowed to represent the country.
However, Osvaldo was quick to point out that the Lega Nord want to split from the rest of Italy and set up an independent country, called Padania, in the Po Valley.
“From what I know, they also criticise players from the south and hence I’m more Italian than those who are creating issues because I wear the blue shirt (of Italy),” said the 25-year-old, referring to the fact that some Lega Nord politicians proudly claim not to support Italy at international competitions.
Osvaldo, who came to Italy in the month he turned 20 in 2006, represented Italy at under-21 level due to Italian heritage.
He has spent four of the last five years in Italy and says he is loyal to his adopted country.
“I feel Italian. My family is Argentine but my wife and children are Italian and it’s here that I grew as a footballer,” he said.
“I sung the national anthem when I was in the under-21s so for me it won’t be a problem to sing it again and I don’t think that would be a lack of respect for anyone either,
“In fact I think Italians would like that.”
Osvaldo started his career at Huracan before moving to Atalanta in Serie B in January 2006.
After just three appearances he went to Lecce for a season, also in Serie B, before making his Serie A bow with Fiorentina, under Prandelli.
He then joined Bologna and year later went to Espanyol in Spain for 18 months before heading for Roma at the beginning of this season.
After initially starting on the bench there he has now scored in his last three matches.