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FOOTBALL

Di Canio - I am fascist not racist

LONDON, England -- Lazio striker Paolo Di Canio is to appeal against a ban and a fine imposed following a recent straight-arm salute, claiming the gesture is fascist not racist.

"I am a fascist, not a racist," said Di Canio.

"I give the salute because it is from a 'camerata' to 'camerati'," he added, using the Italian words for members of late dictator Benito Mussolini's movement.

"The salute is aimed at my people. With the straight arm I don't want to incite violence and certainly not racial hatred," he said.

Di Canio missed Lazio's game at Lecce on Wednesday after he was banned for one match and fined 10,000 euros ($12,000) for making the salute during a recent Serie A match.

The former Celtic and West Ham United player first produced the salute during a Rome derby last season.

His gesture has been widely condemned by politicians, players, fans and Jewish groups but he has won backing from some right-wing politicians.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, owner of AC Milan, this week said the salute "did not have any significance" and described the player as "an exhibitionist but a good lad".

In his autobiography, Di Canio makes clear his admiration for Mussolini and he also wears a tattoo with the word 'Dux' -- Latin for 'Duce' the name Mussolini gave himself during his rule over the country.

Di Canio was a member of Lazio's hardcore 'ultras' fan group before becoming a player -- the Lazio ultras are known for their far-right sympathies and links.

On Tuesday, FIFA asked the Italian Football Federation to submit its file on the player who once won FIFA's Fair Play Award.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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