Backtracking

New Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio has refused to answer questions about his politcal beliefs.

The habitually outspoken Italian was uncharacteristically quiet when quizzed about his controversial politics, claiming. “My life speaks for me so there is no need to speak any more about this situation because it is ridiculous and pathetic.”

His life does indeed speak for him and so too does this image, snapped after he had scored a late goal for Lazio against rivals Roma.

His current reluctance to discuss his beliefs is all a far cry from his days at Lazio when he proudly proclaimed to Italian news agency ANSA in 2005 : “I am a fascist, not a racist”.

Ah well, that’s alright then.

If Sunderland though that the furore over the self-proclaimed fascist would subside on the back of a feeble statement, then they were mistaken.

The Durham Miners’ Association, a workers’ organisation in the north-east of, is also unhappy with Di Canio’s appointment and has called for Sunderland to return the symbolic Wearmouth Miners’ Banner, which is on permanent display in the Stadium of Light.

“I, like many thousands of miners, have supported Sunderland from infancy and are passionate about football,” said DMA general secretary Dave Hopper. “But there are principles which are much more important.”

As for Di Canio, he just wishes the controversy would go away. He pondered, as many bigots do, how he could be racist when some of his best friends were black.

“I don’t have a problem with anyone,” he said. “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.”

You celebrated a goal by performing a sieg heil gesture to a group of supporters comprising mostly neo-fascists. How much more explicitly political can one get?

The desire for a quiet life is understandable, though. Who wouldn’t want such abhorrent views to be overlooked? But, in the absence of repentance, and other than a mealy mouthed attempt to evade accusations of racism there has been no sign of that whatsoever, then Di Canio must be regarded with suspicion and contempt.

Incredible Hulk

From Sunderland appointing a fascist to manage the club, to Russia where the bigotry is largely confined to the terraces.

Supporters of Zenit St Petersburg, the only leading Russian club never to have signed an African player have been criticised by forward Hulk for producing a manifesto calling for a ban on black and gay players.

In December, Zenit’s largest supporters’ group, Landscrona, called on the club not to buy any black or gay players in a bid to maintain their “national identity”.

Brazil international Hulk, who signed for the club in September, said: “I think those people, those fans, do not care about culture at all. I respect footballers of any skin colour and any sexual orientation.

“Those fans who abuse people of a different colour or gays just do not think at all.”

It’s not all doom and gloom for Hulk in Russia; at least his family feels safe in a foreign country.

“That’s one very important thing, which I feel here in Russia and which is seriously lacking at home in Brazil: I don’t worry for my child or wife when they go outdoors alone,” he said.

“Security is a very important part of people’s life and I can say that people in Brazil desperately need to improve security.”

Lame duck

Interim Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez seems undeterred by his side’s poor form, suggesting the London club is on the threshold of a “great season”.

The Spaniard, never a popular appointment among Chelsea fans, momentarily silenced his critics by knocking out favourites Manchester United out of the FA Cup on Monday.

Speaking to the media after the 1-0 win, Rafa has declared the current season – struggling to make the top four of the Premier League, eliminated from the Champions League – as a rip roaring success.

Benitez faced criticism on Saturday in the wake of Chelsea’s Premier League defeat to struggling Southampton. But he brushed aside questions about his decision to rest key players for the league game, in favour of the FA Cup replay against United.

“We’re in the top four with a game in hand. We`re in the semi-finals of the FA Cup and the Europa League quarter-finals. It is a great season. It could be even better.”

“My priority is top four and trying to win the next game, in the Europa League. This win was very important for everyone here.”

“At a top side you have to win every competition.”

Although failing to do so has not done Benitez much harm so far.

Happy Families

Samir Nasri has labelled Roberto Mancini a liar after the Manchester City manager questioned the Frenchman’s efforts in training.

After an erratic campaign, Nasri was back to his best in City’s 4-0 win over Newcastle and the manager joked that he ‘wanted to give him a punch’ for only showing his best form in fits and bursts.

“I don’t know what the difference was today,’ Mancini said. “I can’t understand sometimes a player with his quality doesn’t play like today every game.

“I think that the second year is always difficult to win again. And sometimes a player can think it is enough to play 50 per cent. Probably we had this problem this year.”

But speaking on French television channel beIN Sport on Monday night, Nasri responded.

He said: “I am aware that I have not had a good season. There are many reasons for this. But when Mancini said that I’m training at 50 per cent, this is not true.”

In what could also be interpreted as an attack on Mancini, Nasri lavished praise on former boss Arsene Wenger, under whom he spent three years at Arsenal.

He added: “Arsene Wenger is the greatest coach I have worked with. He is the one who understands me the most, he made me realise my potential.

“I am grateful to him for the role he played in my career. I only regret not having more discussions with him when I left.

“I do not have other regrets. I do not regret joining Manchester City. I want to play and perform, and my departure from Arsenal is purely for sporting reasons.”

Goal of the day

A floated ball by Chelsea’s Juan Mata is transformed into a wonderful assist courtesy of Demba Ba’s amazing athleticism.

Quote of the day

“Neymar is undoubtedly an excellent player. He is going to be one of the best in the world when he decides to play in Europe. He is too talented to be limited only to Brazil.”

Ronaldo tells Sports Spectacular that Neymar deserves a bigger canvas on which to demonstrate his talents.

Save of the day

Remarkable agility from Chelsea’s Petr Cech to deny Manchester United’s Javier Hernandez.

April Fool’s joke of the day

A day late but you can blame the bank holiday for it’s delayed arrival. Asked why he had never retired from international football, former England captain, David Beckham, admits he still harbours hopes of a recall.

“One of the reasons why I’ve never retired from the England team is because if there’s ever an opportunity to play for them again, then I’m available,” he said.

“If there is any chance of me ever playing for my country again, I would never turn that down. Like I said, I’m almost 38 years old so the chances are very slight, but you never know.”

Apparently, this is genuine.

No fizz for Colo Colo

Chilean club Audax Italiano have been awarded all three points after their against Colo Colo was abandoned because of crowd trouble.

The league match at Audax’s Bicentenario ground in La Florida on Sunday was called off in the 58th minute when visiting fans threw stones and launched fireworks and flares onto the pitch.

Audax were leading 3-1 when international referee Enrique Osses took the players off the pitch and were declared winners by Chilean governing body ANFP on Monday.

“It was decided to declare the match finished. This is the result of a vote by the board,” ANFP executive secretary Oscar Fuentes told a news conference, adding the voting was 4-1 in favour.

Fuentes said those who voted against playing the remaining 32 minutes did so “because basically to do so would be a bad sign, that a delinquent can have some influence on the progress of a match”.

Finally…

Records released on Monday confirm that Pele was investigated by Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship.

The records are among nearly 300,000 digital files posted on the “Political Memory and Resistance” portal made public by the state of Sao Paulo.

“It’s all public,” said Governor Geraldo Alckmin, noting that people can access the records from their homes.

“It is very important in terms of transparency and freedom of information for the families of victims during the dictatorship period.”

The file belonging Pele – whose real name is Edson Arantes de Nascimento – includes details on money transfers, newspaper article exracts related to assaults on his home in 1973, and police reports.

President Dilma Rousseff, a former rebel who was tortured and jailed by the dictatorship, last year put in place a truth commission to look into human rights abuses.

This article is from

World Soccer – The unrivalled authority on the game of soccer around the world, World Soccer calls upon journalists from the globe's great soccer capitals. The best writers, analytical features and the ability to deliver the inside-track on domestic and world football have made World Soccer an institution.

Subscribe to World Soccer in print » | Read the digital edition »