I respect everyone - Di Canio
Published 03/04/2013 | 17:06
Sunderland finally responded to continuing uproar over their appointment of Paolo Di Canio as manager by releasing a statement from the Italian insisting he is not a racist and that he does not support "the ideology of fascism".
The statement followed the Dean of Durham becoming the latest public figure to voice disquiet over Di Canio's appointment and questioning why he had not renounced fascism at a news conference on Tuesday.
But the 44-year-old's statement appears designed to draw a line under the controversy. In a statement issued by the club, Di Canio said: "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."
The Italian's statement continued: "This is a 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."
The furore over Di Canio's failure to renounce fascism reached new heights when The Very Reverend Michael Sadgrove, the Dean of Durham, wrote an open letter saying he was struggling to stay loyal to the club and that he found Di Canio's "self-confessed fascism deeply troubling".
Sadgrove, the child of a Jewish war refugee, said in his letter: "I believe that unless you clearly renounce fascism in all its manifestations, you will be associated with these toxic far-right tendencies we have seen too much of in this region."
He added: "Please tell me that I have misunderstood, or missed some fundamental issue here. I am simply telling you with a heavy heart that it feels hard at the moment to stay loyal."
Di Canio blasted the furore over his appointment as Sunderland manager as "ridiculous and pathetic". His appointment led to the resignation of the club's vice-chairman David Miliband, 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.