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Sunderland go to lengths to deny Di Canio fascist links

by Aidan Elder | April 2, 2013

We’re not whizzes when it comes to the worlds of HR and PR, but anytime you’ve got to issue a press release on someone’s first day in the job explaining how they’re definitely NOT a racist and probably not a fascist sympathizer, then the appointment is almost certainly ill-judged.

Hours after Sunderland confirmed that Paolo Di Canio was going to be at the helm for their unsuccessful battle against relegation, questions were being asked about his politics and stated fondness for the ideas of Benito Mussolini. Former Foreign Secretary, David Milliband became former Sunderland director when he stepped down from the club’s board in protest over the Italian’s politics.

The club attempted some damage limitation that was akin to throwing sambuca on a raging inferno. On April 1, they released a statement worthy of the date pretty much explaining that Paolo has lots of black friends and the ‘I tired it once, but I didn’t inhale’ excuse, slightly adapted for expressing your belief in totalitarian system of government.

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

This morning the press conference was cut short when it became clear the club assumed journalists would simply let the issue slide and ask the important questions like ‘can Danny Graham form an effective partnership with Stephane Sessegnon?’ and ‘what is the point of Titus Bramble?’ Instead, they rightly badgered Di Canio into a further unconvincing statement on where he stands politically. Never before has a man holding a club scarf aloft for newspaper photographers been such a tense and joyless affair.

Thankfully, the club allowed us exclusive access to his photo album, which conclusively proves he is neither a fascist or a racist. Would a fascist rock out to Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock? Well maybe, but he’d probably hate himself for being so close to so many smelly hippy liberals. And look, there he is hanging out with the Banks family out in Bel Air. Big Phil wouldn’t stand for that if Paolo harboured any remotely racist tendencies.

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As for Sunderland, it’s fair to say the appointment hasn’t assured anyone of their ability to retain Premier League status. They’re just 15/8 to get relegated, a price that has been boosted by QPR’s virtual guaranteeing of one of the three spots.

The Di Canio era may not turn out to be the most successful in Sunderland’s history, but if the early evidence is anything to go on, it might be the most colourful.

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