There's More Than Meets The Eye To "Fascist" Di Canio

Harry Engels

Many people have been very quick to jump on Sunderland's appointment of Paolo Di Canio. I myself was very, very skeptical given his outspoken nature but digging a little deeper into things there's room to create an argument that he isn't the monster many make out.

It seems that nobody is able to report the news about Paolo Di Canio becoming Sunderland manager without prefacing his name with "fascist".

Obviously this stems from an interview in 2005 when following a "fascist" or "Roman" salute - depending on how you view this sort of thing following a win for Lazio over rivals Roma at the Olimpico.

"I'm a fascist, not a racist" is music to the ears of newspapers around the world looking to create a story, but very few actually bothered to look any deeper than the headline-grabbing throw away line used by Di Canio. If they'd have read further and looked deeper into Di Canio's character they'd have read in the same interview;

I will always salute as I did because it gives me a sense of belonging to my people ... I saluted my people with what for me is a sign of belonging to a group that holds true values, values of civility against the standardisation that this society imposes upon us.

Which is something Di Canio has long since spoken about, notably in his autobiography which was penned fourteen years ago with the help of Gabriele Marcotti.

Di Canio has never been shy to say that he admires a lot of the ideals of fascism, and founder Benito Mussolini, but has also accepted that it's a far from perfect system, going as far as calling the dictator "vile" in his aforementioned autobiography;

His actions were often vile. But all this was motivated by a higher purpose. He was basically a very principled individual.

We are quick to assume that Di Canio has decided to be all in on fascism and supports it all. Obviously, and by his own statement here, that isn't true.

The most terrible aspects of fascism shouldn't be overlooked at all - the racism, the anti-semitism and everything else - but much like you and me and any other right-thinking individual, Di Canio condemns these action as vile.

When Di Canio said of Swindon that he loved and respected the town's people and ways, many Sunderland fans jumped upon this and felt a kinship to it;

OK, it's not a place where you can almost smell the history, like Rome or Florence. It's an industrial town. That may not seem 'cool' to some people, but it only makes me love Swindon more. You know why? Because the people here are proper people; people who work hard, often for low wages.

When Swindon people tell you something, you can trust them, because they mean it. They still have a lot of the values that we had in Italy back in the 1960s and 1970s. Don't misunderstand me. I still love my country. But I've cut the umbilical cord with Italy.

Yet for some reason we can't get on board with or get beyond his political ideals which to many seem to be a step too far. Looking further at what Di Canio does believe it appears to be more from the early part of the fascist movement in creating order, unions, pride in your country as well as Government pensions and mortgages. The things that came before it, according to him, 'turned against its sense of right and wrong'. Before it 'compromised its ethics'. All in all, things you could if spoken by anyone else probably get on board with.

There's a great many other Italians who share the same viewpoint on Mussolini as Di Canio does. Are they right? It's all about where you come from and trying to be sympathetic towards how they would view things.

As mentioned, it's not uncommon in Italy and particular Rome to find people who share the same ideals as Di Canio and an early Mussolini before he "betrayed his principles" (another Di Canio quote).

There's two key things which need to be taken into heavy consideration when looking at this situation. The first of which his that while we look down on this viewpoint he's entitled to it, and not doing anything wrong by law, despite the public perception.

There's also the point that you can share some ideology without going the whole hog. Di Canio has frequently stated he is not a fan of what Mussolini and the fascist party went on to be. Many people in the UK admire Sir Winston Churchill, but it doesn't make them hardcore Tories does it? He and Margaret Thatcher are two very different beasts but if we are to judge the Tory party as a whole, then these two are one and the same. Just like Mussolini and Di Canio.

Don't get me wrong, it's not a popular appointment and unlikely ever will be unless we win say five of the next seven games, but before you routinely dismiss Di Canio, look a little deeper into what he has said and believes.

If you're willing to label people as something without looking at the facts, such as calling the blanket name of "fascist" without seeing if they actually are or not, and claiming anyone that who continues to support them is just as bad then isn't that, well, a bit fascist?

What is so singularly special about just one of his words that it must define him? Why take that one and elevate it above his other words such as his previously mentioned condemnations of Mussolini's actions and regular anti-racism rants in his Corriere dello Sport column, for example?

If you still feel the same then by all means feel free to withdraw your support for the team and the hierarchy of the club. Personally I take a little more umbrage at the fact he's unproven at this level and it's a ridiculous risk from Ellis Short at this time of the season, but we'll find out more on this in the coming weeks, where I hope I'm proved very, very wrong. Much like a few might be if they actually delve into Di Canio's beliefs.

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