Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Di Canio appointment 'worrying' - Powar

Paolo Di Canio has been urged to clarify his political beliefs

Paolo Di Canio must clarify his current political beliefs and distance himself from fascism, according to Football Against Racism in Europe director Piara Powar.

Di Canio, who was announced as a replacement for sacked Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill on Sunday night, has previously admitted to having fascist leanings, telling Italian news agency ANSA in 2005: "I am a fascist, not a racist." Ex-foreign secretary David Miliband resigned as Sunderland's vice-chairman and non-executive director, citing the Italian's "past political statements".

Powar is concerned the appointment of Di Canio could have dangerous repercussions if his political beliefs are not immediately challenged.

"When there is a rise of intolerance and there is a coach in the Barclays Premier League, which is the most watched league globally, who hasn't clarified or wanted to renounce his fascist views during his time in the UK, it is a worrying time," said Powar.

"Di Canio has the opportunity to clarify his views and let us know what his approach will be and how his strongly held views will influence how he will do his job. It would be hypocritical of us (at FARE) not to point out his self-proclaimed fascist past when we are outraged by Lazio fans when they make the Roman salute, which we all know has been made famous by Hitler and the far right."

Di Canio, who quit as manager of npower League One side Swindon in February, was the subject of a Football Association investigation last year after on-loan Leyton Orient striker Jonathan Tehoue claimed he was racially abused by the Italian. Di Canio was later cleared of the charge, although Swindon made an apology to the player.

However, with several other high-profile instances of racism in the game in recent times, Powar believes it is all the more necessary for Di Canio to explain his political leanings.

When asked if Di Canio could be the right choice for Sunderland to help ensure their top-flight survival, Powar said: "There are all these good footballing reasons to employ him, but are footballing reasons enough when someone comes with the baggage he comes with?"

Former Swindon chairman Jeremy Wray described Miliband's decision to quit as a "sad knee-jerk response".

He told BBC Radio Five: "I think anybody's political views and their private views - as long they're private and how they conduct themselves away from their job - are pretty irrelevant. Nothing of that was ever discussed during his time at Swindon. He was focused on success for us and that's what he'll do for Sunderland."

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