Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio: 'I do not support the ideology of fascism'

Manager issues statement claiming he is principled but not political

Paolo Di Canio was forced to issue a statement this afternoon declaring he does not support the ideology of fascism following intense criticism since his appointment as the new manager of Sunderland on Sunday.

Di Canio finally addressed the issue that has provoked a national storm which led to the resignation of David Miliband as non-executive director of the club on Sunday night, in protest at the appointment because of an interview in 2005 when the Italian said he was a fascist.

The 44-year-old repeatedly turned down the opportunity at his unveiling as Martin O’Neill’s successor at the Academy of Light on Tuesday to denounce his previous position regarding fascism.

“I have clearly stated that I do not wish to speak about matters other than football, however, I have been deeply hurt by the attacks on the football club,” yesterday’s statement read. “This is a historic, proud and ethical club and to read and hear some of the vicious and personal accusations is painful.

“I am an honest man, my values and principles come from my family and my upbringing. I feel that I should not have to continually justify myself to people who do not understand this, however, I will say one thing only – I am not the man that some people like to portray. I am not political, I do not affiliate myself to any organisation, I am not a racist and I do not support the ideology of fascism. I respect everyone.

“I am a football man and this and my family are my focus. Now I will speak only of football.”

Di Canio’s statement came after the very Reverend Michael Sadgrove, the Dean of Durham and a Sunderland supporter, had said he was struggling to stay loyal to the club and that he found Di Canio’s “self-confessed fascism deeply troubling”.

In an open letter, he wrote: “Your appointment raises difficult questions. I am the child of a Jewish war refugee who got out of Germany and came to Britain just in time. Some of her family and friends perished in the Nazi death camps. So I find your self-confessed fascism deeply troubling.

“Fascism was nearly the undoing of the world. It cost millions of innocent lives. Mussolini, who you say has been deeply misunderstood, openly colluded with it. You are said to wear a tattoo ‘Dux’ which speaks for itself. This all adds up to what I find baffling.

“You say that you are not a racist, but it needs great sophistication to understand how fascism and racism are ultimately different. This distinction will be lost on the people of the North East where the British National Party is finding fertile ground in which to sow the seeds of its pernicious and poisonous doctrine. I believe that unless you clearly renounce fascism in all its manifestations, you will be associated with these toxic far-right tendencies we have seen too much of in this region.”

Lazio’s football club historian Alfonso Dessi said of Di Canio: “He was a true fascist. He declared himself a fascist and never denied his ideas but this matter had no impact on the football institutions. He had a huge impact on the so-called hooligans because of his political ideals but not on the media.”

Di Canio, meanwhile, has insisted he will be involved in transfers this summer, despite having been given the title head coach.

“In the future, when we are talking about signing footballers and for the system I am going to use, then obviously I will ask for the players I want to have,” he said.

Di Canio statement in full...

“I have clearly stated that I do not wish to speak about matters other than football, however, I have been deeply hurt by the attacks on the football club.

“This is a historic, proud and ethical club and to read and hear some of the vicious and personal accusations is painful. I am an honest man, my values and principles come from my family and my upbringing.

"I feel that I should not have to continually justify myself to people who do not understand this, however I will say one thing only - I am not the man that some people like to portray.

“I am not political, I do not affiliate myself to any organisation, I am not a racist and I do not support the ideology of fascism. I respect everyone.

“I am a football man and this and my family are my focus.  Now I will speak only of football.”

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