Football: `I deserved a red card' says Di Canio

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PAOLO DI CANIO has admitted that referee Paul Alcock was right to send him off for kicking the Arsenal defender Martin Keown.

Sheffield Wednesday's Italian striker reacted furiously when Alcock produced the red card at Hillsborough on Saturday, pushing the official to the ground. Di Canio, who has been suspended by the club and charged with misconduct by the Football Association, has now accepted that Alcock made a correct decision.

But, though his agent yesterday issued an apology, the striker still insists the referee "play-acted" and that he was unfairly targeted for being a foreigner. Speaking from Rome, Di Canio said: "What I did was wrong because you should never let things reach that point, but I think this whole thing has been exaggerated. Keown came up and hit me in the face.

"At that point I couldn't see anything because I could feel the blood coming out and the pain made my head spin. I lost my temper. I think that, for the reaction I had, I deserved to be sent off."

Keown has appealed against his red card, insisting he was acting as a peacemaker, but Di Canio claims that Alcock also made the right decision in sending off the Arsenal man. "I think Keown deserved to be [sent off] as well," he said. "I acted badly towards the referee but it was just a slight push, and he took two or three paces back and fell over, just like a player does when he wants a free-kick. It was a bit of play-acting. Every Saturday I get kicked around a lot and nobody is there to protect me. This isn't fair and it seems to me that the treatment handed out to foreigners is harsher than what the others get. The problem is that the English are jealous of foreign players."

Di Canio's agent, Matteo Roggi, moved to minimise the damage by saying: "He is really sorry for what happened during the game on Saturday and would like to apologise to everyone for his actions to the referee, to his manager Danny Wilson, his team-mates and the Sheffield Wednesday fans."

Di Canio, who has 14 days to respond to the FA and request a personal hearing, appears certain to be handed a long ban.