Paolo Di Canio denies having fascist beliefs

I'm no fascist: Sunderland boss Di Canio bows to pressure and denies having right-wing sympathies

PUBLISHED:

15:15 GMT, 3 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

16:59 GMT, 3 April 2013

Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio has released a statement denouncing racism and fascism and vowed that he 'respects everyone'.

The Italian's political beliefs and background have come under close scrutiny in the days after his appointment as boss at the Stadium of Light on Sunday night.

The former West Ham, Celtic and Lazio striker had declined to answer questions over whether he was a fascist, but has now moved to draw a line under the matter.

Controversial: Do Canio's appointment has caused uproar among fans and those opposed to fascism

Controversial: Do Canio's appointment has caused uproar among fans and those opposed to fascism

Di Canio said in a statement: 'I have
clearly stated that I do not wish to speak about matters other than
football, however, I have been deeply hurt by the attacks on the
football club.

'This is an historic, proud and
ethical club and to read and hear some of the vicious and personal
accusations is painful. I am an honest man, my values and principles
come from my family and my upbringing.

'I feel that I should not have to
continually justify myself to people who do not understand this, however
I will say one thing only – I am not the man that some people like to
portray.

'I am not political, I do not
affiliate myself to any organisation, I am not a racist and I do not
support the ideology of fascism. I respect everyone.

'I am a football man and this and my family are my focus. Now I will speak only of football.'

Earlier today the Dean of Durham
wrote an open letter to Di Canio calling on the Italian to publicly
renounce fascism or risk being associated with 'toxic far-right
tendencies'.

Denounce fascism: The Dean of Durham has called on Di Canio to distance himself from toxic far-right tendencies

Denounce fascism: The Dean of Durham has called on Di Canio to distance himself from toxic far-right tendencies

Plea: The Dean of Durham has called on Di Canio to distance himself from toxic far-right tendencies

The Very Reverend Michael Sadgrove,
the son of a Jewish war refugee and a Sunderland supporter, said he was
struggling to stay loyal to the club and that he found Di Canio's
'self-confessed fascism deeply troubling'.

In his open letter to Di Canio, the Dean of Durham wrote: 'Your appointment raises very difficult questions. You see, I am the child of a Jewish war refugee who got out of Germany and came to Britain just in time. Some of her family and friends perished in the Nazi death camps. So I find your self-confessed fascism deeply troubling.

'Fascism was nearly the undoing of the world. It cost millions of innocent lives. Mussolini, who you say has been deeply misunderstood, openly colluded with it. You are said to wear a tattoo DUX which speaks for itself. This all adds up to what I find baffling.

'You say that you are not a racist, but it needs great sophistication to understand how fascism and racism are ultimately different. I can promise you that this distinction will be lost on the people of the North East where the British National Party is finding fertile ground in which to sow the seeds of its pernicious and poisonous doctrine.'

Di Canio refused to confirm or deny whether he was a fascist at a news conference yesterday but has previously stated he is 'a fascist but not a racist'.

He has also been pictured giving a fascist salute to Lazio 'ultras' and photographed attending the funeral of a leading Italian fascist.

Di Canio, the former Swindon
manager, has the word 'Dux', the Latin equivalent of 'Duce', tattooed on
his arm – a reference to Il Duce, Benito Mussolini.

Down to work: Di Canio has taken charge of his first training session at Sunderland today

Down to work: Di Canio has taken charge of his first training session at Sunderland today

Down to work: Di Canio took charge of his first training session at Sunderland today

WHAT EXACTLY IS FASCISM

As the last few days have shown, ‘fascism’ is a word that comes with great political baggage but no simple definition.

In general terms, it evokes right-wing and nationalistic values – standing against the liberal ideals of socialism and democracy and promoting instead authoritarian figures who control the state.

Fascism is ingrained in the political make-up of Italy but is muddied by its links to Nazism, and particularly anti-Semitism.

While racism was a central ideology to Nazism, some historians argue Italian fascism is far more ambiguous – it focuses on conflicts of nation and race within any culture rather than defining status by class.

The first ‘fascist’ movement to gain real power was Mussolini’s Blackshirts in Italy in 1922 – before Adolf Hitler took over the term in the build-up to the Second World War.

Where this leaves Di Canio’s politics is anyone’s guess.

He told Italian news agency Ansa in 2005: 'I am a fascist, not a racist.

'I
give the straight arm salute because it is a salute from a “camerata”
to “camerati”,' he said, using the Italian words for members of
Mussolini's fascist movement.

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

At a news conference yesterday, Di Canio blasted the furore over his appointment as Sunderland manager as 'ridiculous and pathetic' and warned that he may not speak to media who continue to question him on the subject.

He said: 'My life speaks for me so there is no need to speak any more about this situation because it's ridiculous and pathetic.

'We are in a football club and not in the House of Parliament. I'm not a political person, I will talk about only football.'

His
appointment led to the resignation of the club's vice-chairman David
Miliband, Labour MP for South Shields and former foreign secretary, and
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.

SO, HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN THIS

Di Canio is yet to explain why he was at the funeral of fascist Paolo Signorelli in 2010, where mourners made the right-arm salute as the body was carried out of the church.

The Sunderland boss was a frequent visitor to Signorelli's home in the final years of his life.

Signorelli, who died aged 76, had been a senior member of the Italian Socialist movement which grew out of the collapse of Benito Mussolini's Fascist party after the Second World War.

Paolo Di Canio

He spent eight years in jail on remand after a bomb was set off killing 85 people at Bologna railway station in 1980.

Although he was initially convicted he
was cleared on appeal because of insufficient evidence. But he was
still found guilty of being part of an 'armed band' and a 'subversion
against democracy'.

Di Canio is understood to have been a frequent visitor to the far-right politician's home in the final years of his life.

Terrorist bombing in Bologna Railway station

'I will not talk about Fascist issue anymore' – Di Canio

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