Paolo di Canio has issued a lengthy statement about his personal beliefs following the storm that greeted his appointment as Sunderland manager.
Former Labour leadership contender David Milliband resigned his position as an an honorary director shortly after learning of Di Canio’s appointment.
In a statement Milliband said: “I wish Sunderland AFC all success in the future. It is a great institution that does a huge amount for the North East and I wish the team very well over the next vital seven games.
“However, in the light of the new manager’s past political statements, I think it right to step down.”
During his Lazio days di Canio was pictured making a fascist salute and expressed his admiration for Mussolini in his autobiography.
Those views have kicked up a storm following his appointment at Sunderland forcing the new manager into issuing a statement before he has been formally introduced at a media conference.
Di Canio goes into some length to distance himself from his facist links but at no stage denounces his previous comments.
In a statement to the Sunderland website he 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.
“I believe in my pillars and I have values. 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.”
Sunderland CEO Margaret Byrne said: “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.”
Di Canio signed a two and a half year contract with Sunderland last night and will be in charge for the first time away to Chelsea on Sunday.
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