Skip to main content

Paolo Di Canio faces scrutiny over 'Fascist' views

April 2, 2013 -- Updated 2204 GMT (0604 HKT)
Controversial Italian Paolo Di Canio has landed his second club manager's job with English Premier League side Sunderland. Controversial Italian Paolo Di Canio has landed his second club manager's job with English Premier League side Sunderland.
HIDE CAPTION
Paolo Di Canio: 'Fascist not racist'
Paolo Di Canio: 'Fascist not racist'
Paolo Di Canio: 'Fascist not racist'
Paolo Di Canio: 'Fascist not racist'
Paolo Di Canio: 'Fascist not racist'
Paolo Di Canio: 'Fascist not racist'
Paolo Di Canio: 'Fascist not racist'
Paolo Di Canio: 'Fascist not racist'
Paolo Di Canio: 'Fascist not racist'
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sunderland defend appointment of new manager Paolo di Canio
  • Italian is proud of his fascist beliefs and is an admirer of Benito Mussolini
  • "I'm not in the Houses of Parliament, I'm not a political person, I will only talk about football," says Di Canio.
  • Di Canio's views cost his former club Swindon a key sponsorship deal

(CNN) -- Condemned for his self-confessed belief in fascist ideals, yet congratulated for acts of admirable sportsmanship.

Revered for feats of amazing skill, but reviled for violent outbursts on the pitch.

Perhaps not surprisingly Italian Paolo di Canio's rollercoaster career has guaranteed the Italian has occupied the front and back pages of British newspapers since he first came to the United Kingdom.

His appointment as manager of English Premier League strugglers Sunderland has thrust this divisive character back into the spotlight once more, with the north east club scrambling to justify his appointment following its sacking of the Italian's predecessor Martin O'Neill on Saturday.

The Italian's arrival at Sunderland has already prompted the resignation of one of the club's board members -- MP David Miliband, who recently decided to stand down as MP to work for New York based charity International Rescue.

Wray: Paolo Di Canio not fascist, racist
Is Premier League manager a fascist?
Boateng: Racism in football must end
PFA chairman: Serbia should be banned

"In the light of the new manager's past political statements, I think it right to step down, " Miliband, a former British secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs for the traditionally left wing Labour party, wrote on his own website.

Fiery temperament

Born in Rome and raised through Lazio's youth ranks, the first half of Di Canio's career included stints with some of Europe's most famous clubs -- and plenty of rows with some of Italy's most respected coaches.

The playmaker clashed with Giovanni Trapattoni at Juventus before incurring the ire of Fabio Capello at AC Milan and then heading to Scotland in 1996 where he flourished during one season with Celtic.

If there was fire in his belly it was accompanied by sublime skill.

Read: Di Canio's appointment prompts MP to quit soccer club

When he was at Napoli Di Canio scored one breathtaking solo goal against AC Milan, running almost the length of the pitch before firing home.

It was after swapping Scotland for the English Premier League's Sheffield Wednesday in 1997 that the complexity of Di Canio's character was laid bare.

The Roman became front page news in September 1998 when he shoved referee Paul Alcock to the ground after being sent off in a match against Arsenal.

An 11-match ban followed, as did his exit from Wednesday with a move to West Ham United just four months later.

During four years at Upton Park, Di Canio left an indelible mark on West Ham and the Premier League.

In March 2000 he scored a stunning volley against Wimbledon -- widely regarded as one of the finest goals in Premier League history -- but it was his conduct in a game at Everton in December of the same year which drew global admiration.

Read: Greek player banned for fascist salute

With Everton goalkeeper Paul Gerrard lying on the ground injured, Di Canio elected to catch the ball rather than head it into the unguarded net.

Wright: England team is overhyped
Ginola on why PSG are worth it
Ginola on why PSG are worth it

His actions were met with immediate applause from fans and a Fair Play award from world football's governing body FIFA, citing a "special act of good sportsmanship".

"It was sportsmanship of the highest merit," Harry Redknapp, West Ham manager at the time, said of Di Canio's act.

"Paolo thought the goalkeeper might have a broken leg and refused to take advantage."

Values of civility

But with Di Canio, the good and the bad must be measured against the ugly.

After returning to Lazio in 2004, Di Canio made remarks which he has refused to clarify following his appointment at Sunderland.

"I am a facist, not a racist," Di Canio once told an Italian news agency.

Since his appointment at Sunderland, Di Canio has insisted that he doesn' want to talk about politics, though in 2005 he was willing to aim a straight-arm salute at Lazio's fans which, he claimed, was directed at "my people". Was that a political or just a sporting gesture?

"I will always salute as I did because it gives me a sense of belonging to my people," Di Canio told journalist Gabrielle Marcotti in the player's autobiography.

"I saluted my people with what for me is a sign of belonging to a group that holds true values, values of civility against the standardization that this society imposes upon us."

Read: Meet Italy's proud football racists

Who Di Canio's people are is the subject of much debate, but in his autobiography he described himself as "fascinated" with Italy's former fascist leader Benito Mussolini, who enacted anti-Semitic laws and oversaw the deporting of thousands of Italian Jews to concentration and death camps.

Di Canio is not the only Italian footballer or manager to express sympathy with Fascism or flirted with the ideology, notably Daniele De Rossi, Christian Abbiati, Gianluigi Buffon and Alberto Aquilani.

As a club, Lazio has been punished for racism offences four times this season.

A statement issued by Sunderland following Di Canio's appointment declared that to suggest he held fascist or racist views was to question "the integrity of the club".

"I'm not in the Houses of Parliament, I'm not a political person, I will only talk about football," the 44-year-old manager told reporters at his unveiling on Tuesday.

Read: Sunderland's Nelson Mandela link

While Di Canio faces scrutiny off the pitch, on it his new team are sinking without a trace.

Sunderland are without a win in their last eight matches, with Saturday's 1-0 defeat to Manchester United -- the final act of O'Neill's managerial reign -- leaving the team one point above the relegation zone.

As always, Di Canio plans to meet his latest challenge head on.

"The press call me the mad Italian but I would confidently bet everything I have on Sunderland remaining in the top flight," declared Di Canio.

Over to you, Paolo...

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1123 GMT (1923 HKT)
After 20 years, more than 300 goals and a host of major honors, Thierry Henry has called time on his glittering football career.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1014 GMT (1814 HKT)
They do things differently at Sociedad Deportiva Eibar, up in the mist-cloaked valleys of the Basque country. And it is working.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 1353 GMT (2153 HKT)
He might be struggling to score goals for Liverpool, but Mario Balotelli's cheeky tweet about the British monarch hit the spot during the World Cup.
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 1253 GMT (2053 HKT)
How Real Madrid's new stadium will look
They splash the cash on the world's best players, now Real Madrid are giving the Bernabeu the same treatment with a bling makeover.
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1309 GMT (2109 HKT)
Football world mourns South African captain Senzo Meyiwa who was shot and killed during a botched robbery in a township near Johannesburg.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1348 GMT (2148 HKT)
A man as a Roman centurion and who earn his living by posing with tourists gestures in front of the Colosseum during a protest where some of his colleagues climbed on the monument on April 12, 2012 in Rome. The costumed centurions are asking for the right to work there after they were banned following a decision by local authorities.
From the ancient ruins of Rome, a new empire rises. But the eyes of the city's newest gladiator light up at thoughts of the Colosseum.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1622 GMT (0022 HKT)
Once part of Germany's largest Jewish sports club, now he's the first ISIS suspect to stand trial in a country left shocked by his alleged radicalization.
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1411 GMT (2211 HKT)
One goal in eight matches for new club Liverpool, and dumped by the Italian national team -- Mario Balotelli has yet to shine on his English return.
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 1819 GMT (0219 HKT)
Ched Evans smiles during the Wales training session ahead of their UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier against England on March 25, 2011 in Cardiff, Wales.
Should a convicted rapist, who has served their time in prison, be allowed to resume their old job? What if that job was as a high-profile football player?
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 1247 GMT (2047 HKT)
After 10 years of golden glory, it's easy to see how Lionel Messi has taken his place among the football gods.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 1034 GMT (1834 HKT)
A football fan wipes a tear after Inter Milan's Argentinian defender Javier Zanetti has greeted fans following the announcement of his retirement before the start of the Italian seria A football match Inter Milan vs Lazio, on May 10, 2014, in San Siro Stadium In Milan
When will the tears stop? A leading Italian football club is pursuing a new direction -- under the guidance of its new Indonesian owner.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 2241 GMT (0641 HKT)
Norwegian 15-year-old Martin Odegaard is the youngest player ever to feature in a European Championships qualifying match.
October 10, 2014 -- Updated 1310 GMT (2110 HKT)
After revolutionizing cricket with its glitzy Twenty20 league, India has now thrown large sums of money at a new football venture.
October 2, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Get ruthless. That is Rio Ferdinand's message to soccer's authorities in the fight to tackle the scourge of racism.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1328 GMT (2128 HKT)
A picture taken on May 16, 2014 shows 15-year-old Norwegian footballer Martin Oedegaard of club Stroemsgodset IF cheering during a match in Drammen, Norway. Oedegaard is set to become Norways youngest player ever in the national football team.
He's just 15 and the world is seemingly already at his feet. Norway's Martin Odegaard is being sought by Europe's top clubs.
ADVERTISEMENT