English football has had more than its fair share of bad press when racism is involved over the past year. With Luis Suarez and John Terry both receiving punishments in the way of bans and fines from the FA, no doubt a lot of back slapping is going on amongst the big wigs of the FA.
However, considering all the campaigns of ‘kicking racism out of football’ it is odd that a known fascist not only works within English football but is actually celebrated as having a ‘quirky’ management style and even writes for the BBC. The man I am talking of is Paolo Di Canio. Currently residing as manager of Swindon Town and sitting 4th in the league after promotion from League Two last season.
It must be said that before I look into the double standards the FA impose by banning players for racial abuse but allow a man with openly fascist beliefs to manage in the football league, he is known amongst the football world as a nice bloke. I have listened to many podcasts that often reminisce with a spring in their voice at how polite and happy he was, with the phrase “Such a nice bloke but with ‘those’ opinions” often used.
This is a man who has the word “Dux,” a reference to Mussolini, tattooed on his arm. As a child, he also belonged to a right-wing Lazio fan group. And, in his autobiography, he writes that he was “fascinated” by Mussolini and that the dictator was “basically a very principled, ethical individual” who was “deeply misunderstood.”
Speaking as a Sheffield Wednesday fan some of my fondest memories of watching my team are from the days of Di Canio and Benito Carbone forming a wonderful partnership and helping us surge up the Premiership table. Until of course Dave Richards and Danny Wilson broke up the team and began what was to be a decade of woe and misfortune for my club.
Most football fans sum up Di Canio’s time at S6 in one moment in a game against Arsenal, which we won thanks to a goal by Lee Briscoe, when he pushed referee Paul Alcock onto the floor which looked like a scene from the silent film era. Alcock’s dive was almost as bad as Suarez’s fall against Stoke last weekend.
Ironically the FA banned Di Canio for 11 games which makes his crime worse than Terry’s or Suarez’s racial abuse cases. Another ridiculous hypocrisy from the FA. This moment of madness is in stark contrast to the moment of fairplay that most West Ham fans remember him for in a game against Everton when goalkeeper Paul Gerrard was on the floor injured only for Di Canio, with an open goal to aim at, picked up the ball and stopped play.
The head of Rome’s soccer federation, Franco Baldini criticized di Canio, saying “Di Canio has greatly damaged the image of his club.” Italy’s Minister for European Union affairs, the conservative Rocco Buttiglione, also expressed dismay. “The Roman salute brings back painful memories for many Italians…He [di Canio] should think about the offspring of those who were killed and what it would be like for them to see that.”
These two moments are from a long time ago but seem to have followed Di Canio as he is always constantly described in the English press as slightly crazy but fair.
One moment that seems to have been erased though was during Lazio’s 3-1 victory over bitter rivals Roma in 2005 when Di Canio gave the fascist salute, the first of three times, to the Lazio ultra’s after scoring the first goal. These are the same ultra’s that chanted Di Canio’s name at Liverpool St stationand then went on to direct monkey chants at Tottenham’s Jermain Defoe and Aaron Lennon in the teams Europa League clash.
This shows the hypocrisy of English football as even though they rightfully ban players for racial abuse, although in any other walk of life these players would be fired and disgraced from their profession, they have a man being linked to a job with an ex-Premiership club whose name is chanted by some of the most right wing, racist and violent fans in Europe.
Di Canio himself has never been involved with any allegations of racial abuse but given the amount of influence he has with these pathetic excuses of fans he makes no attempt to actually ‘kick racism out of football’. This is because they share the same fascist beliefs and love of Mussolini.
When Di Canio took over at Swindon Town it was nice to see that not everyone was ok with him taking over as the GMB Union, who used to sponsor the club £4,000 a year, severed all links with them after appointing the Italian, according to the Daily Mail. Whether or not Reebok, the sponsor of Bolton Wanderers, would react in the same way too Di Canio being appointed would be fascinating to watch but due to a laissez faire attitude towards politics that football has hid behind for years I doubt Di Canio’s appointment would make any ripples within the system.
Professional football is so caught up in making as much money as possible it doesn’t really have any ethical or moral code unless someone from the outside steps in and says “that’s out of order”. This kind of bad press from the outside world can affect how much money football makes as a business and so as long as a man with fascist beliefs does nothing outrageously wrong then he will have nothing to hinder his career win one of the most lucrative businesses in the world.
Even if he was involved in some sort of scandal a ban and a fine would be enough evidence to say the authorities have punished him, even though anyone else would be fired from their job for even being open about having the same beliefs as Di Canio.
To take any actions against Di Canio for simply having beliefs would be similar to being a fascist but getting Di Canio to actually help make football a multi-cultural and openly accepting game would be a step in the right direction as his Neo-Nazi followers would see this and hopefully take influence. Of course this won’t happen as it may mean a lack of profit and that is far more important than equality and unity within the beautiful game.