Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Di Canio not talking politics

New Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio refused to expand on his political views after being asked during his first press conference since taking the job whether or not he was a fascist.

The 44-year-old has previously admitted in a 2005 interview with an Italian news agency to being "a fascist, but not a racist" and his apparent political leanings have already led to the resignation of the club's vice-chairman David Miliband, Labour MP for South Shields and a former foreign secretary.

The club were keen for Tuesday's press conference to be purely focused on football, but inevitably the question of just what Di Canio stood for came up again. He said: "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."

He continued: "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 released a statement on Monday, in which he said: "I expressed an opinion in an interview many years ago. Some pieces were taken for media convenience.

"They took my expression in a very, very negative way - but it was a long conversation and a long interview. It was not fair. Sometimes it suits their purpose to put big headlines and a big story. When I was in England (as a player) my best friends were Trevor Sinclair and Chris Powell, the Charlton manager - they can tell you everything about my character. Talk about racism? That is absolutely stupid, stupid and ridiculous."

The Durham Miners' Association has asked the club to return a symbolic banner which is kept at the Stadium of Light if Di Canio remains in his post, describing Di Canio's appointment as a "betrayal and a disgrace".

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."

Asked if the focus on politics was making his job more difficult, he said: "No. Because always there is an issue if people try to put you in difficulty for a ridiculous and pathetic situation which doesn't represent Paolo Di Canio. So I'm not worried."

There were repeated calls for Di Canio to clarify his views on fascism at the end of the press conference but he swatted them away. "The fans have to think my life speaks for me," he said. "Call Trevor Sinclair, call Chris Powell, call (his agent) Phil Spencer, he's Jewish. Call them - who is Paolo Di Canio?"

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