Sunderland have sacked Di Canio. I am delighted. Let me explain why.
For about 21 months I had on and off discussions with a mate of mine who is a passionate Swindon Town fan and someone I’ve got a lot of respect for. It went something like:
Me: “Paulo Di Canio is a fascist…I think you should boycott Swindon until they get rid of him”.
My mate: “You’re political belief shouldn’t determine your job prospect, anyway – he will be great for the club”.
Me: “It’s like saying that football is more important than opposing fascism – anyway, if he is good for the club it will be a side show to what is good for PDC.”
My mate: “We’ve just been promoted.”
After his 21 months in charge my mate was unchanged about his view that politics and football shouldn’t mix but did concede that he has now:
“lost all respect for Di Canio… (Breaking into the offices, making ultimatums to a Board that did not even have control of the club and airing our dirty washing in public)… but this is due to his actions… as opposed to his views and ideologies”
A year or so later, I wonder how many Swindon fans can honestly say that they miss him?
When he joined Sunderland I reiterated my call for fans to boycott Sunderland. Inevitably Sunderland fans (already angered by days of hostile media coverage) reacted with anger to what they saw as another anti-Di Canio article. Their fans forum shows I made few friends with that article.
Within this call to boycott Sunderland I once again made the dual argument. 1) It is a fan’s moral imperative to make a stand against fascist beliefs within their club and community. 2) Sunderland’s results would suffer. Di Canio would not bring the salvation SAFC needed and would, in the long term, be as bad for the club on the pitch as he is off.
As you can imagine, both points were swiftly rejected in the aftermath of their 3-0 drumming of Newcastle. A selection of the comments from that article and on the fans forum included:
Jason Reveley’s confessions of love:
“I am in love with Paolo Di Canio. I think he will save Sunderland AFC and turn us into a top 10 club”
Ron’s selected character assesment:
“apart from his sometimes eccentric behaviour on the field, no one has ever flagged up any problems with him off the field” (I add: This was not true at the time of writing and has been shown to be not true this season at Sunderland).
And in addition a wide range of petty insults that are endemic within fan forums (most showing a questionable preoccupation with sexual innuendo).
Since then Di Canio has overseen 1 point from 5 games. His own players have been reported to be central to his dismissal. It was reported that after another defeat Lee Cattermole, the midfielder he stripped of the captaincy, told Di Canio that the squad had lost faith in his “controversial methods”. This then went to the Board who made the final decision.
But as important as Sunderland’s form is, for me it pales into insignificance compared to my deep-rooted belief that fascism has no place in football. This is not to say I support a ban of any sorts but that I have a faith in fans ability to articulate a collective voice that says we want what is best for our club and our community and that this cannot involve employing someone with such fascist views.
At this point it is important to be clear by what I mean when I say fascism (something Di Canio failed to do).
Fascism is an ideology that has been illustrated through a series of brutal historical examples (Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Suharto etc). Dr Lawrence Britt broke down the characteristics of fascism into 14 ideas that ranged from a “Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts” to a “Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights”.
There is nothing within these characteristics that I support and taken collectively you get a cocktail of beliefs that is abhorrent and they are unacceptable. It is this poisonous cocktail that I fight so hard to keep out of my club and my community.
As a result I still stand by my argument that if my club tried to employ someone with fascist beliefs I would boycott them. In light of this I would call on other supporters to do the same. I hope Sunderland fans will join me and get behind this call.