LONDON: Sunderland’s new manager Paolo Di Canio dealt effectively and clearly with the issue of whether he is a fascist . . . by telling reporters he did not want to talk about politics.
The Italian was appointed on Sunday to his first Premier League job in succession to Martin O’Neill who was sacked within hours of Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat by leaders Manchester United.
Some reports interpreted his comments as a threat to ban from press conferences any reporters who persisted with the question – which was also taken to be a clarification of his views.
During his first press conference as manager of the relegation-threatened club, Di Canio was offered repeated opportunities to deny any commitment to fascism, the extreme right-wing philosophy developed in the 1920s and 1930s by ‘Duce’ Benito Mussolini in Italy and then by the Spanish dictator General Francisco Franco.
Di Canio, who referred to himself mostly in the third person, said: “I don’t have to answer that question any more. I don’t want to talk about politics. I’m not in house of parliament. I am not political person.
“You pick words. I can’t keep going talking about life and my family. They offend Paolo Di Canio. They offend my parents. I don’t give anyone the chance to offend my parents.
“People want the opportunity for a ridiculous and pathetic situation which doesn’t represent Paolo Di Canio. I don’t want to give the chance to a person to keep going in press conference if they don’t want to talk about football.”
The Durham Miners’ Association has said will ask Sunderland to return the Wearmouth Miners’ Banner, which is on permanent display at the Stadium of Light, in protest at Di Canio’s appointment.
The former Celtic and West Ham player is confident of winning over critics unhappy about his appointment.
“It was the same for a different reason at Swindon,” Di Canio added, speaking about himself in the third person. “There was many, many people who could not believe that Di Canio was the right manager for the club.
“After two months, there were 9,000 people at the end of the game clapping their hands for my players and singing my name.
“It is more important the Sunderland fans sing my players’ names as they need the extra lift. They will then be happy, probably, as they will think they were wrong and now we have to keep Di Canio forever.”
When asked about his plans for Sunderland, Di Canio said he would “bet everything” on his ability to keep the club in the Premier League.
He said: “The press call me the mad Italian but I would confidently bet everything I have on Sunderland remaining in the top flight. When I got the call, I felt fire in my belly. I would have swam to Sunderland to take the job.
“With my energy I’m sure we can get something from the next seven games. I hope my ways give the team more confidence on the pitch. Players need to fight for the shirt – go out on that pitch ready to sweat and shed blood for the club.
“It’s important that the fans are happy with how the team perform and I hope to achieve that. We’re all working towards the same goal. I want to take things step-by-step. Firstly, it’s Chelsea and we will be fully focused for that game.”
Di Canio has taken the backroom staff that supported him at Swindon to the Stadium of Light.
He has appointed Fabrizio Piccareta as first-team coach, with Domenico Doardo taking over as goalkeeping coach supported by fitness coach Claudio Donatelli and physio Giulio Viscardi.
Di Canio was handed his first managerial role by Swindon in May 2011, replacing Paul Hart, and was in charge for 21 months.
After securing promotion and with Swindon in the League One play-off positions, he quit after becoming frustrated by off-the-field issues.
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