Newly appointed Sunderland boss Paolo Di Canio has said via a statement on Sunderland’s official website that it is “stupid and ridiculous” for him to be considered a racist. The former Swindon Town boss was appointed as Sunderland’s boss yesterday, a move that made vice-chairman David Miliband step down from his post due to Di Canio’s political views. Di Canio is reportedly fascist and told the Italian news agency ANSA, “I am a fascist, not a racist,” in 2005. But now the Italian claims he is not either fascist or racist, following Piara Powa, the director of the Football Against Racism in Europe association (FARE), demanding Di Canio to clarify his political beliefs.
“I don’t have a problem with anyone,” Di Canio said through a statement on Sunderland’s official website. “I don’t know why I have to keep repeating my story, to be defending myself on something that doesn’t belong to me every time I change clubs. Talk about racism? That is absolutely stupid, stupid and ridiculous.
“Something can happen many years ago but what counts is the facts. My life speaks for me. Of course it hurts me because people try to take your dignity and that is not fair. I believe in my pillars and I have values. What offends me more than anything is not because they touch me; they touch what my parents gave to me; the values they gave to me. This is not acceptable.
“What I can say is that if someone is hurt, I am sorry. But this didn’t come from me, it came from a big story that people put out in a different way to what it was.
“I never have a problem in my past. 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. I know it is a part of my job to do interviews because I am well-known, but sometimes it suits their purpose to put big headlines and a big story.
“I don’t have a problem with anyone. I haven’t had a problem in the past and I don’t know why I have to keep repeating my story, to be defending myself on something that doesn’t belong to me every time I change clubs. Talk about racism? That is absolutely stupid, stupid and ridiculous. The people who know me can change that idea quickly. When I was in England my best friends were Trevor Sinclair and Chris Powell, the Charlton manager – they can tell you everything about my character.
“I don’t want to talk about politics because it’s not my area. We are not in the Houses of Parliament, we are in a football club. I want to talk about sport. I want to talk about football, my players, the board and the fans. My first priority is my family and my daughters, that’s obvious, and secondly to have the responsibility for thousands of people. This is my priority and I want to be focused on this aspect. I don’t want to talk any more about politics – I am not a politics person.”
Sunderland chief executive Margaret Byrne has heavily criticized criticism towards Di Canio, saying it is a insult to the club.
“Anyone who has met Paolo and spoken with him personally, as we did in depth before making this appointment, will know that he is an honest man, a man of principle and a driven, determined and passionate individual,” Byrne said.
“To accuse him now, as some have done, of being a racist or having fascist sympathies, is insulting not only to him but to the integrity of this football club.
“My role and that of the board is to act in the best interests of this club at all times and in appointing Paolo Di Canio we feel we have done just that. It is disappointing that some people are trying to turn the appointment of a head coach into a political circus.”
Sunderland are currently in sixteenth place in the Premier League, with Di Canio facing a tough job in taking them away from the relegation zone.