A tough decision for Sunderland fans as Paolo Di Canio is appointed manager

David Miliband has made his position clear by stepping down - but will fans back the new manager despite his private beliefs?

Share
Related Topics

There are a few questions left hanging in the air from Paolo Di Canio's surprise appointment as manager of Sunderland's football club at the weekend.

For instance, is it possible to be a fascist and not a racist? How would David Miliband have discharged his duties as director of the club while also looking after the world's dispossessed from his headquarters in New York? And since when did questions of morality become a factor in our national game?

Prior to recent days, I'm not sure many people will have known that the former Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs sat round the boardroom table at Sunderland. Where once Mr Miliband would have been entertaining visiting dignitaries or formulating a policy on Syria, latterly he would have been discussing the recent poor run of form that has seen Sunderland sink to a place just above the relegation zone in the Premier League.

Mr Miliband was paid £125,000 for his insight into football (he was an avowed supporter of Arsenal) as well, one assumes, for his ministerial experience. And just when his diplomatic skills might be needed - that is, when the club sacks its well-respected and popular manager and replaces him with an Italian with a penchant for straight-armed salutes - he quits, saying  that his conscience couldn't allow him to wear the red-and-white scarf any longer.

"In the light of the new manager's past political statements," Mr Miliband wrote on his website, "I think it is right to step down." (At this point, it would be much too cynical to ask a further rhetorical question: "When did a senior member of Tony Blair's former administration turn down some easy money - Mr Miliband did 15 days' work for his sizeable stipend - on a point of principle?")

He chooses his words carefully, and when he talks of Di Canio's "past statements" rather than current beliefs, are we to understand that the new manager has repudiated his allegiance to extreme right-wing opinion? Does he regret having a tattoo of Mussolini?

After all, he said Il Duce was "basically a very principled, ethical individual" who was "deeply misunderstood". Is he sorry about making the Roman salute - the one copied by the Nazis - during a game in Italy?  

He has confessed to being a fascist, "but not a racist" (even giving Di Canio the benefit of the doubt, I don't believe it's possible to be one without the other). It is hardly surprising that many inside football, who have promoted zero tolerance on racism, have called on Di Canio to make his position clear. And they're not just talking about whether he prefers a flat back four or not.

As ever, it's the supporters of Sunderland - a club whose fan base is from the socialist stronghold of the industrial north-east - who face the most difficult choice. Do they decide that a football man's private beliefs are his own business and get behind the new manager? Or are they so repulsed by his past actions that they are forced to boycott the club they love? In football, pragmatism rules. My guess is that a dodgy past counts for nothing if Premier League survival is achieved.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The power of anonymity lies in the freedom it grants

Boyd Tonkin
Rebel fighters walk in front of damaged buildings in Karam al-Jabal neighbourhood of Aleppo on August 26, 2014.  

The Isis threat must be confronted with clarity and determination

Ed Miliband
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone