Three days after he was hired as manager by English Premier League club Sunderland, Paolo di Canio released a statement addressing his pro-fascist past.
“I am not a racist and I do not support the ideology of fascism,” he said.
In 2005, as a player for Lazio, di Canio was disciplined by FIFA for repeatedly making a fascist “roman salute” to fans (pictured). After the controversy, he told the Italian publication ANSA, “I am a fascist, not a racist.”
He also allegedly has a tattoo of Benito Mussolini’s nickname on his arm, the Telegraph reports.
Sunderland board member and ex-foreign secretary David Miliband resigned in protest when di Canio was hired, and many have called for him to clarify his beliefs.
Until today, he had refused to explicitly address the controversy surrounding his politics, only saying that the media took his quotes out of context and, “I don’t want to talk about politics because it’s not my area. We are not in the Houses of Parliament, we are in a football club.”
But he clarified his beliefs today, and apparently he’s not a fascist anymore.
The statement in its entirety:
“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 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.”
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