Football: Di Canio to apologise over attack

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The Independent Online
AFTER THE red mist comes the remorse with Paolo Di Canio planning to issue an apology for his assault on the referee Paul Alcock before throwing himself at the mercy of the Football Association.

The Italian, who has been involved in controversy at most of the clubs he has played for, was suspended indefinitely by Sheffield Wednesday immediately after Saturday's 1-0 victory over champions Arsenal and he will be charged by the FA with gross misconduct once they receive Alcock's report.

The FA's disciplinary commission has wide-ranging powers, and the least he can expect is a punishment comparable to the nine months for which Eric Cantona was suspended following his notorious kung-fu attack on a fan.

The incident occurred after a rumpus in which Di Canio became involved in a scuffle with the Arsenal defender Martin Keown. On being shown the red card, the Italian shoved Alcock to the ground before storming off the pitch. Keown was also sent off, but the incident that sparked off the confrontation - in which the Arsenal defender appeared to be kicked by Di Canio - involved neither player.

It began innocuously enough, with Patrick Vieira shimmying from Wednesday's Dutch midfielder Wim Jonk and being hauled back by his shirt-tail. Vieira responded with an ill-tempered shove and Jonk pirouetted to the ground.

At least a dozen players rushed to the scene. Prominent among them was Di Canio, whose manifold skills do not include diplomacy. When Alcock brandished the card, Di Canio responded by giving the official a petulant two-handed shove in the chest that sent him staggering back to end up sprawled on the pitch.

The player's agent, Matteo Roggi, said yesterday that Di Canio was "deeply upset" and is prepared to apologise for his actions. "At the moment we are deciding what to do," he said. "We will first let the dust settle on what has happened over the next few days. Paolo has said that he doesn't wish to speak to anybody with regard to the incidents. But he admits he is deeply upset. I feel sure Paolo will decide to issue an apology shortly and we will then have to see what happens."

The FA's chief executive, Graham Kelly, would not be drawn on what Di Canio's punishment might consist of, but welcomed Wednesday's decision to suspend him.

His manager, Danny Wilson, said that there was no other course of action open to the club, although he said he would still like Di Canio to play for him.

"We cannot condone any type of incident like that, let alone making contact with the referee," Wilson said. "I do not know what was going through his mind. He just lost it for a split second.

"We suspended him straight away as we felt we needed to show people we understood the seriousness of the incident. We will suspend him for as long as it takes. I still want to have him in the team, but it's up to the League as to when that will be."

Brendon Batson, the deputy chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, said: "No matter what case he puts forward, the evidence is damming. I think there will be a book being hurled at him with some force."

Alcock spent yesterday considering whether to continue in the game. "I have spoken to Paul three times to give him support as he was very shocked - it is something you don't expect," Philip Don, the Premier League's referees' officer, said. "When things like that happen you have to consider your place in the game."

Premiership referees are considering proposals to go full-time, but Don doubts if professional referees would have stopped Saturday's incident.

Kelly urged Alcock not to give up. "I hope Paul is able to carry on because one cannot allow incidents like this to affect the referees that are coming through," he said. "They get enough problems at the lower levels and when they finally make it to the Premiership they have a right to feel those kind of things are in the past and that professional players behave in a right and proper manner."

Goal: Briscoe (89) 1-0.

Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Pressman; Cobian, Thome, Walker, Hinchcliffe; Atherton, Jonk (Magilton, 89), Rudi, Alexanderson (Briscoe, 59); Di Canio, Booth (Humphreys, 19). Substitutes not used: Barrett, Clarke (gk).

Arsenal (4-4-2): Manninger; Vivas, Keown, Adams, Winterburn; Bergkamp, Vieira, Petit (Hughes, 77), Overmars (Bould 45); Parlour (Ljungberg. 77), Anelka. Substitutes not used: Garde, Taylor,

Referee: P Alcock (Surrey).

Bookings: Wednesday: Thome. Arsenal: Winterburn, Vivas. Sendings-off: Wednesday: Di Canio. Arsenal: Keown.

Man of the match: Pressman.

Attendance: 27,949.