Di Canio ducks fascism questions

2013-04-02 14:43

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New Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio described the controversy over his appointment as “ridiculous and pathetic” and refused to answer questions about whether he held fascist beliefs in his first news conference.

Di Canio (44) replaced Martin O’Neill at the relegation-threatened Premier League team on Sunday, a move that sparked the resignation of a British former government minister from the club’s board.

David Miliband, a departing Member of Parliament and a former Foreign Secretary, stepped down because of remarks the ex-Swindon Town boss made to Italian news agency ANSA in 2005 when he said: “I am a fascist, not a racist”.

“I don’t have to answer any more this question, there was a very good statement from the club, (with) very, very clear words that came out from me,” the Italian said today in an effort to steer talk away from politics and back to football.

“I don’t want to talk any more about politics for one reason because I’m not in the House of Parliament, I’m not a political person, I will talk about only football.”

Di Canio had sought to dampen the fires yesterday by releasing a statement that suggested he had been quoted out of context.

“I expressed an opinion in an interview many years ago. Some pieces were taken for media convenience,” he said.

Di Canio’s appointment led the Durham Miners Association (DMA), a powerful workers’ organisation in the north-east of England, to ask for the return of a banner that is on permanent display at the club’s Stadium of Light.

“The appointment of Di Canio is a disgrace and a betrayal of all who fought and died in the fight against fascism,” the DMA’s general secretary Dave Hopper said.

“Everyone must speak out and oppose this outrage and call on (club chairman) Ellis Short and the Sunderland board to reverse their decision.”

Asked if he had a message for the DMA, Di Canio said: “I have said many, many words in the past and people have picked the words they wanted. I can’t keep going on about my life and my family. The people who are talking in this way, they don’t understand Paolo Di Canio.”

The Italian was given the job after a 1-0 defeat to Manchester United on Saturday prompted the surprise sacking of O’Neill.

Sunderland are 16th in the 20-team table and without a win in eight games.

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