Tag Archives: Sunderland

Arrivederci Di Canio, Arrivederci fascism

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.

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A letter to Paolo Di Canio

Dear Paolo,

As a man who loves football and has an undoubted passion for success I am sure that Sunderland’s slow start to the season must be difficult for you to take. One point out of a possible 12 and sitting at the bottom of the league…that must be painful for you.

I am sure you don’t need some blogger reminding you of this though. Anyone who watches you on the touchline knows that you feel every moment, every mistake and every result. You’re a divisive character but I don’t think anyone doubts your passion.

I am worried though that your passionate personality, the very thing that drives you forward, the thing that earns you masked respect, might also be acting as a blinker to how you understand life in the Premiership.

You see Paolo, the more I think about it the more I think you might not be suited to life in the Premier League at all.

You seem to hold an attitude that was maybe once true but certainly isn’t anymore – that the individual player is of no importance compared to the team, the collective, the community. Many, especially fans, still hold this to be true but most successful managers don’t.

When you substitute players for not performing minutes into games you stand in contrast to every other manager. When you publically humiliate your players (even your captain isn’t immune) you undermine yourself, your players and yes…also your club.

This trait, although problematic is only amplified with the inconsistency in which you implement it.

You seem to be the one exception to the rule that you so fiercely apply to others. You, whether consciously or sub-consciously, seem to constantly make yourself bigger than any club you enter – this was certainly true for Swindon and I wonder if it is any different now you’re at Sunderland?

Was arguing with the referee and then asking to be sent to the stands the best thing for the team against Arsenal? I suspect not. You did what was right for you…not the team!

When it suits you, the team is secondary to your personality. While you demand near anonymity from your players, you yourself put on a showmanship unmatched by any other over-inflated ego within the Premiership.

Whether you like it or not Paolo, players in other clubs are thriving under the spotlight of the individual. You are, in the words of your own players, risking killing their confidence.

Letting individuals flourish has to be balanced with what is right for the team but simply stomping down players egos to make a pedestal for yourself just isn’t sustainable for you, your players or your club.

Now Paolo, I am really sorry but I have to raise your now denied assertion that you’re a fascist (at some point Paolo I would love you to explain to the world what you understand a fascist to be). I believe you when you say you’re not a racist (I have no reason not to) but I think there is a part of you that does identify with fascism.

Exactly what you mean by being a fascist I don’t know. But a common feature of fascism is the disregard of the individual, the belief in the importance of the collective. As we have already discussed, this is something of a trait in your personality.

Equally, it seemed to be a bit of issue for Mussolini, the man who you have a tribute to tattooed onto your arm and whose face is tattooed onto your back. He said, “Anti-individualistic, the Fascist conception of life stresses the importance of the State and accepts the individual only in so far as his interests coincide with those of the State”.

Exact definitions vary but most understandings of fascism include this dangerous disregard for the individual.

Is it a coincidence that your “unique” managerial style also overlaps with the ideology you have been so consistently linked with?

Back when you first joined Sunderland I wrote that at best you will stay quiet but at worse you would let your poisonous ideology seep through and let it affect how you managed the football team.

Paolo, I am deeply troubled that I think we are seeing glimpses of your fascist ideology seeping into your managerial style. However much you try to disassociate yourself, your political views are impacting Sunderland. You already have war veterans boycotting your games.

Your presence is casting a dark stain, not just over the Stadium of Light but the whole Premiership.

Paolo, I know you’re not one to give up, to quit, to crumble to the status quo…but have you ever thought that you might not be suited to life in the Premiership? That maybe, the tolerant, individualistic, liberal nature of the modern game might not be conducive to your beliefs and managerial style?

For what it’s worth, my advice is simple. Take to the stands where your passion will be appreciated without leaving lasting damage on the club.

I am sure the ultras at Lazio will welcome you back with open (saluted) arms.

This I believe would be what is best for your players, for your club and even the league in which you currently compete.

Steve Hynd

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