News that the self-avowed fascist Paolo Di Canio has been appointed to manage Sunderland AFC has been met with anger from big sections of Sunderland fans and other workers around the country. We provide here an article by Falce Martello, the Marxists in Italy, who provide some background and history to the life of Di Canio and his fascist beliefs.
News that the self-avowed fascist Paolo Di Canio has been appointed to manage Sunderland AFC has been met with anger from big sections of Sunderland fans and other workers around the country. As one Socialist Appeal supporter said:
“That ground is built on the Thatcherite remains of Wearmouth colliery, one of the most radical pits in Durham and all the UK. Its men collected from their meagre wartime earnings enough to buy two Spitfires for the RAF the better to combat fascism.”
David Milliband MP has announced he will resign as Vice Chairman of the Sunderland Board, and the Durham Miners Association (DMA) have said that they want the Monkwearmouth Colliery Lodge Banner returned from its pride of place inside the Stadium of Light(The S of L is built on the site of the pit).
Although Di Canio announced in a statement yesterday that he is no longer a fascist, the DMA have stated that they don’t accept his explanation.
We thought it would be useful to get some background on Di Canio from Italy and we are very grateful to Daniele Argenio from FalceMartello for sending us this short article.
The appointment of Paolo Di Canio as Head Coach of Sunderland AFC, a Premiership team, has provoked controversy throughout Britain, with a strong echo also in Italy.
The scandal was caused by the fact that the Italian coach is openly fascist and in his playing career was associated with various incidents of a fascist nature, the best known of which is the Roman salute that he regularly addressed Lazio fans with.
The protests against the decision of the leadership of the English team were many and widespread: first David Miliband Labour MP and Vice Chairman of Sunderland AFC has resigned from his role in the club; then the Durham Miners’ Association, a historic supporter of the team, has announced it will remove its support following the appointment of Di Canio, emphasizing the historical crimes of fascism and the need to combat it in all its forms; finally, it has generated a strong protest among fans of the team, among whom there is a general discontent, and a protest group on Facebook has gained thousands of contacts within hours.
But who is Paolo Di Canio and why has his appointment generated so much protest?
Born in Rome in 1968, as a young man Paolo Di Canio gravitated towards the far-right groups active in the city suburbs, playing in the youth team and then the SS Lazio first team (of which he has always been a fan). He built a solid relationship with the most important groups of ultras supporting the biancoceleste such as the Irreducibili, all of which are avowedly fascist and the home of numerous offenders in their ranks, characterised by gang aggression and violence of a racist nature. Precisely because of his political sympathies, Di Canio is much loved by his fans and flaunts his political affiliation with two tattoos – one with a written DUX and another depicting an eagle above the head of Mussolini -as well as giving several interviews praising fascist dictatorship.
Unfortunately for him, and for the scum who support him from the stands, his career as a player proved to be sluggish, especially since even his good technical skills were accompanied by bad behaviour towards managers, coaches and teammates resulting in him moving playing for 4 teams in 8 years scoring only 21 goals.
A turning point in Di Canio’s career came after he moved first to Scotland and then to England, when he put the fascism to one side for a few seasons. In England there was no notable “special” political episode, although at that time (2001) his autobiography came out in Italy where he re-stated his beliefs in fascism. It seems evident his strategy was to avoid showing off right-wing extremism so as not to cause controversy in England, where evidently he feels less secure in openly publicising his ideas.
In 2004 he returned to Italy to finish his career at Lazio, galvanised to be home and found association with the Roman far right. He would perform the Roman Salute [i.e a fascist salute] in almost every game to the comrades his fans. Especially famous salutes were performed in front of the camera in matches against Roma and Livorno (which have Left supporters historically) and one salute was made in a match between Lazio and Juventus, which cost him a suspension and a fine. Also famous are his statements on the Roman salute as “a symbol of belonging” and it being “fascist but not racist”. This behaviour have always been appreciated by the Italian neo-fascist groups, who in addition to declaring solidarity with him have made propaganda campaigns with posters showing him doing the Roman salute. Unsurprisingly, his behaviour drew disgust from the Left and the Italian anti-fascists who have argued strongly against him, despite the intervention of Silvio Berlusconi in his defence.
Despite his current attempts to hide his past, history clearly demonstrates not only that he is a fascist, but also the direct relationship between him and some of the most violent and dangerous neo-fascist groups in Italy. Just remember the barbaric attack suffered by Tottenham fans in Rome by a group of neo-fascist Lazio Ultras. Clearly, this is even more serious because Sunderland is historically a team with a fan base on the left; a sporting tradition for workers in the north-east of England.
It is clearly positive that all these controversies about Di Canio have been raised. As anti-fascists, it is our duty to ensure that fascists like Di Canio can no longer be tolerated in football stadiums or in society in general.