Sunderland hit back at Di Canio criticism

Paolo Di Canio
Paolo Di Canio
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SUNDERLAND have hit back over the furore created by the appointment of new head coach Paolo Di Canio.

The decision to name Di Canio as Martin O’Neill’s successor has prompted a media storm over the political views previously expressed by the Italians.

Black Cats vice-chairman David Miliband even felt strongly enough to resign from his position at the Stadium of Light.

But Sunderland and Di Canio today issued a statement, which they claim will be their last comment on the matter, in an attempt to clarify the situation.

Di Canio said: “Something can happen many years ago but what counts is the facts. My life speaks for me. Of course it hurts me because people try to take your dignity and that is not fair.

“What offends me more than anything is not because they touch me, they touch what my parents gave to me, the values they gave to me. This is not acceptable.

“What I can say is that if someone is hurt, I am sorry. But this didn’t come from me, it came from a big story that people put out in a different way to what it was.

“I never have a problem in my past. I expressed an opinion in an interview many years ago. Some pieces were taken for media convenience. They took my expression in a very, very negative way – but it was a long conversation and a long interview.

“It was not fair. I know it is a part of my job to do interviews because I am well-known, but sometimes it suits their purpose to put big headlines and a big story.

“I don’t have a problem with anyone. I haven’t had a problem in the past and I don’t know why I have to keep repeating my story, to be defending myself on something that doesn’t belong to me every time I change clubs.

“Talk about racism? That is absolutely stupid, stupid and ridiculous. The people who know me can change that idea quickly.

“When I was in England my best friends were Trevor Sinclair and Chris Powell, the Charlton manager – they can tell you everything about my character.

“I don’t want to talk about politics because it’s not my area. We are not in the Houses of Parliament, we are in a football club.

“I want to talk about sport. I want to talk about football, my players, the board and the fans.

“My first priority is my family and my daughters, that’s obvious, and secondly to have the responsibility for thousands of people.

“This is my priority and I want to be focused on this aspect. I don’t want to talk any more about politics – I am not a politics person.”

Black Cats chief executive Margaret Byrne added: “Sunderland AFC is a traditional football club, with a rich and proud history. It has a strong ethos and ethics and that has not changed in any shape or form.

“Naturally it’s been very disappointing to read some of the reaction to Paolo’s appointment in the last 24 hours.

“Anyone who has met Paolo and spoken with him personally, as we did in depth before making this appointment, will know that he is an honest man, a man of principle and a driven, determined and passionate individual.

“To accuse him now, as some have done, of being a racist or having fascist sympathies, is insulting not only to him but to the integrity of this football club.

“Paolo has spoken emotively and at length in order to clarify some of the misconceptions that surround him and historical comments and actions attributed to him in the past.

“My role and that of the board is to act in the best interests of this club at all times and in appointing Paolo Di Canio we feel we have done just that.

“It is disappointing that some people are trying to turn the appointment of a head coach into a political circus.

“We are a football club and now want to allow Paolo and the team to focus on the rest of the season.”