The new manager of Sunderland Football Club, Paolo Di Canio, is under increasing pressure to retract a series of pro-fascist statements he made while playing in Italy.
Criticism of his appointment came from both fans and anti-racism campaigners – some of whom said they would boycott the club unless he clearly condemned fascism or apologised for his remarks.
Some said his appointment was insulting to a city that was extensively bombed during the Second World War. Professor Bob Hudson, a lecturer at Durham University and a Sunderland fan since 1955, said he would not be attending the Stadium of Light until Mr Di Canio leaves: “Three hundred people were killed in Sunderland by fascist bombing whilst tens of thousands of Sunderland men would have been killed fighting fascism in Europe. What’s been done is astonishing.”
Supporters’ Club member Stan Simpson, a season ticket-holder for 40 years, reacted more cautiously: “If he expresses those sort of opinions while he’s there, he should be sacked, it doesn’t matter how or where. It’s not acceptable in this country.” He added: “As long as he doesn’t express any political opinions I can cope with it.”
Local MP Sharon Hodgson also called on Mr Di Canio to clarify his previous political statements, saying: “I think fans deserve clarity on their new manager’s views, and will be looking, as I am, to the club and Mr Di Canio to provide that clarity as a matter of urgency.”
Mr Di Canio was once quoted by the ANSA news agency as saying: “I am a fascist, not a racist.”
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