CRITICS today welcomed a statement from new Sunderland boss Paolo Di Canio in which he claims not to support fascist beliefs.
Di Canio’s past comments on the subject led to a barrage of criticism levelled against SAFC who signed up the controversial former player on Sunday, hours after sacking Martin O’Neill.
The Italian initially refused to answer questions on the subject when he appeared at a press conference on Tuesday.
Now, in an effort to calm the controversy and answer his critics, Di Canio released a statement dismissing both racist and fascist accusations.
He said: “I do not wish to speak about matters other than football, however, I have been deeply hurt by the attacks on the football club.
“This is a historic, proud and ethical club and to read and hear some of the vicious and personal accusations is painful. I am an honest man, my values and principles come from my family and my upbringing.
“I feel that I should not have to continually justify myself to people who do not understand this, however, I will say one thing only – I am not the man that some people like to portray. I am not political, I do not affiliate myself to any organisation, I am not a racist and I do not support the ideology of fascism. I respect everyone.
“I am a football man and this and my family are my focus. Now I will speak only of football.”
The latest statement was today welcomed by Durham Miners’ Association (DMA) who this week demanded the club remove the Monkwearmouth Banner from the Stadium of Light in protest at Di Canio’s signing.
Dave Hopper, general secretary of the DMA, said: “The fact Di Canio has come out and said this is a fantastic result for all Sunderland supporters.
“We respect what he is now saying and take him on face value that his words are the truth.
“Football is very important to a lot of people in Sunderland and his past statements have caused a great division among Sunderland fans in the city. A lot of people have been soul searching about what’s happened this week.
“Let’s hope this latest statement helps bring back some harmony to the Stadium of Light.
“In regards to the banner, we will be speaking with the club today and are hopeful that the banner will now be able to stay at the stadium.”
Martyn McFadden, editor of fanzine A Love Supreme, said: “I am relieved, as it has been a hard 72 hours for all the fans.
“The good name of the club has been dragged through the tabloid press. If this had been sorted out earlier, it wouldn’t have caused the split among fans that it has.
“We can now get on with supporting the team. This only goes to show politics and sport do not mix.”
However anti-fascist group, Hope not Hate, who publicly condemned the club’s decision to sign Di Canio, says it remains unconvinced by the latest statement.
A spokesman said: “Until he publicly stands up and says “I am not a fascist”, we will not be convinced.
“This is someone who has fascist tattoos who has expressed his views on a number of occassions.
“Are we now supposed to suddenly believe all his beliefs have changed?
“Obviously, he is crumbling under the pressure being put on him by the club, but I don’t think many people will be convinced by this.”