Former striker turned League One manager Paolo Di Canio’s time at Swindon Town was successful if controversial to say the least — mostly due to an Italian interview in 2005 in which he said, “I am a fascist, not a racist” — but also because of his hard-headed nature as a manager. I mean, the guy resigned from Swindon after the board sold a top player to a rival, and was then accused of raiding his former office after midnight.
Now, Sunderland AFC are struggling to stave off relegation — right now, they are outside the drop zone, but have looked largely atrocious for most of the season. After an inspiring burst to save the Black Cats from danger last spring, Martin O’Neill spent plenty of Ellis Short’s cash with very little in the way of return and sent players on their way who probably would have helped given the rash of injuries his squad has suffered. Short fired O’Neill after last weekend’s 1-0 loss to Man United — and has now hired the top-level-unproven Di Canio to replace him.
This has brought anti-fascist and anti-racist groups out calling for Di Canio to clarify his previous remarks and prompted Sunderland’s vice chairman, former high-ranking Labour MP David Miliband, to resign in protest of the hiring.
(For context, Miliband’s family came to England to escape the Nazis, so being associated with anyone who openly espoused fascism, spoke well of Mussolini, and seems to sympathize with the hard right of the ultras at Lazio is not terribly desirable for him.)
For his part, Di Canio has denied he is a racist, calling the accusations, as you see below at the link, “stupid and ridiculous.”
Paolo Di Canio hits back at ‘stupid and ridiculous’ racism accusations | Football | guardian.co.uk