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Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has defended the behaviour of Paolo Di Canio claiming the the Lazio striker was not a fascist but an exhibitionist.

Di Canio was banned for one game on Monday and fined €10,000 for making a raised-arm, fascist-style salute in a Serie A match at the weekend.

Despite criticism for his gesture Berlusconi leapt to the player’s defence saying the 37-year-old player was misunderstood.

“Di Canio is an exhibitionist. His salute didn’t have any significance,” Berlusconi said.

“He’s a good lad,” added the prime minister, who owns Serie A team Milan.

Sepp Blatter, president of soccer’s governing body FIFA, said players making fascist salutes should be banned from the game for life.

Di Canio himself said the gesture was not intended as a political statement.

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