This is the final article in a short series on Social Justice First about the state of modern football.
Paulo Di Canio, a fascist (in all probability), is now sitting at the helm of one of Britain’s most respected football clubs. The only way to remove him from such a prestigious position is for the fans to implement a boycott of the club.
For the last two years I have been calling for a boycott of Swindon Town FC – Di Canio’s former employers.
Few in the midst of the media scrum that followed his appointment to Sunderland commented on his two year reign at Swindon Town. Barney Ronay at the Guardian was the exception to this rule when he wrote, “Di Canio has been manager of Swindon for two years without complaint…there is an excellent point to be made about the lack of attention paid to events in the lower leagues.”
He was right on one count. The whole Di Canio debacle shows the unhealthy media spotlight that is shined upon the Premiership leaving the lower leagues in its shadow.
Just as the next big things can be spotted playing in the lower leagues, so the next big problem can also often be found there.
Barney was wrong however to assert that Di Canio spent two years at Swindon without complaint.
I was complaining and complaining loud.
Back in 2011 I wrote that Swindon should be embarrassed to employ a man who is a symbol of modern fascism and called for all fans to boycott the club.
I finished that article by appealing to the Swindon fans saying, “The message has to come from the supporters. Sack him for the reputation of the club.”
This message was ignored by most, if not all, Swindon fans. Could it be different for Sunderland?
At the heart of every football fan is passionate burning desire for success. Regardless of Di Canio’s politics he delivered promotion to Swindon. Success on the pitch acted to numb the consciousness of many Swindon fans. Promotion enabled them to look the other way.
Although this isn’t an excuse for their silence, it does at least act as an explanation.
For Sunderland fans there is little chance of this level of success and this might act as the catalyst for his dismissal or at least a de facto boycott (drop in gate sales).
The harder question though sits with all of the non-Swindon and non-Sunderland fans. Di Canio has been a manager in the UK for over two years now; why have they not spoken out until now?
Not my club, not my problem was the most common response from non-Swindon fans that I spoke to over the last few years.
Let’s be clear though: it is our problem. Fascism has no place in a modern tolerant democracy. Fascism, by its nature, invokes a support for authoritarianism coupled with a questionable understanding of culture and national identity. Is this what Sunderland want in a figurehead?
This issue moves beyond just fascism though.
In a macabre game of ‘footballing extremist ideology bingo’ we are now erring towards a full house in modern football. We’ve got racists, we’ve got homophobes, and now, to complete the set, we have a self-declared fascist.
While the footballing establishment has at least started to tackle the first two problems, there remains uncertainty about how, or even if they should, tackle fascism.
Once again this is why the message needs to come from the fans that fascism has no place in the game.
Look either side of you on the terraces and you will see people who not only fought fascism but also know people who died at the hands of fascists. The horrors of the 20th century are not as far away as some think.
It pains me to have to write this, but being a fascist is not just being ‘a bit right wing’ – it is lending your tacit support to a movement that oversaw the mass death of millions.
At best Di Canio will stay quiet. At worst though, the poisonous ideology that this confused Italian extrovert follows will drip into his decisions and affect the players underneath him.
Just as Marcel Desailly would probably choose to never play for a team that Ron Atkinson managed, so I doubt any Italian with immigrant descendants would want to play for Sunderland.
For the good of British football, for the good of Sunderland FC and for all those who spent their lives fighting fascism I call on everyone to boycott the Stadium of Light until Di Canio has either renounced all aspects of fascism or left the club.