Sunderland Football Club released an official statement today attempting to diffuse the controversy regarding the appointment of new manager Paolo Di Canio, who — as some believe — is a self-proclaimed fascist. The club has also moved quickly to stamp out allegations of racist beliefs.
But by doing so, Sunderland have opened up a can of worms. Nowhere in the 663 word statement does Paolo Di Canio state that he’s not a fascist. Instead, he sidestepped the issue by saying:
“I don’t want to talk about politics because it’s not my area. We are not in the Houses of Parliament, we are in a football club. I want to talk about sport. I want to talk about football, my players, the Board and the fans. My first priority is my family and my daughters, that’s obvious, and secondly to have the responsibility for thousands of people. This is my priority and I want to be focused on this aspect. I don’t want to talk any more about politics – I am not a politics person.”
Sunderland CEO Margaret Byrne, however, said:
“To accuse him now, as some have done, of being a racist or having fascist sympathies, is insulting not only to him but to the integrity of this football club.”
Whether Di Canio is a fascist or not, it’s silly of Sunderland and Di Canio to expect that questions about the new manager’s political beliefs would not come into question especially after Sunderland executive director David Miliband resigned yesterday in protest at Di Canio’s appointment.
In order to put this issue to bed, a better move by Sunderland would have been to encourage Di Canio to come out and admit that he’s not a fascist. Until Di Canio addresses the issue head-on, I don’t see the controversy disappearing.
In his autobiography, which was ghost-written by journalist Gabriele Marcotti, Di Canio said that fascist dictator Benito Mussolini was misunderstood. However, that same passage in the book includes Di Canio condemning the former Italian leader.
Di Canio also generated controversy when he made a salute (pictured above). According to Marcotti, “That’s a roman fascist salute to Lazio fans who made [the] same [salute] back. It’s their salute. [Di Canio was] not making [a] nazi statement.”
Despite this, in a 2005 interview, Di Canio proclaimed himself “a fascist, not a racist.”
The question remains regarding whether he still considers himself a fascist or not, which has gone unanswered in the official statement from Sunderland. While the club says “Neither Sunderland AFC, nor Paolo Di Canio, will make any further comment on this matter,” I believe the club and manager have to address the situation in the coming days otherwise the controversy is going to start impacting the manager and Sunderland players on the pitch.
What do you think about the controversy? Should Di Canio come out and answer the question directly, or should politics and football not mix? Share your opinions in the comments section below.
200+ Channels With Sports & News
- Starting price: $33/mo. for fubo Latino Package
- Watch Premier League, World Cup, Euro 2024 & more
- Includes NBC, USA, FOX, ESPN, CBSSN & more
Live & On Demand TV Streaming
- Price: $69.99/mo. for Entertainment package
- Watch World Cup, Euro 2024 & MLS
- Includes ESPN, ESPN2, FS1 + local channels
Many Sports & ESPN Originals
- Price: $6.99/mo. (or get ESPN+, Hulu & Disney+ for $13.99/mo.)
- Features Bundesliga, LaLiga, Championship, & more
- Also includes daily ESPN FC news & highlights show
2,000+ soccer games per year
- Price: $4.99/mo
- Features Champions League, Serie A, Europa League & NWSL
- Includes CBS, Star Trek & CBS Sports HQ
175 Premier League Games & PL TV
- Starting price: $4.99/mo. for Peacock Premium
- Watch 175 exclusive EPL games per season
- Includes Premier League TV channel plus movies, TV shows & more
- Managers warn over pitch invasions as police probe Vieira incident
- Losing to Lyon made us better, says Barca’s Bonmati
- World Soccer Talk adds national team schedules and new features
- PSG coach Pochettino in the dark over Mbappe future
- Women’s Euro 2022 on ESPN to air across TV and streaming
- Borussia Dortmund part ways with coach Marco Rose
- Klopp confirms ‘Liverpool legend’ Origi is leaving Anfield
- UK police probe Vieira pitch ‘altercation’ at Everton match
- Tuchel hails Chelsea ‘miracle’ after Kante injury issues
- Dutch striker Miedema signs new deal at Arsenal