The appointment of Paolo Di Canio has generated a lot of media attention for Swindon Town Football Club. For example, it is unfounded for a small club like Swindon to ‘trend` on the social network website, Twitter! People are talking about the club. Just what is going on? The club have a history of appointing managers who were much loved during their playing careers: Dave Mackay, Lou Macari, Ossie Ardiles, Glenn Hoddle and Steve McMahon all started their management days at Swindon while Dennis Wise continued his promising post-playing career after leaving Millwall.
The arrival of Di Canio has also reignited many fans love for the club, excited by the prospect of the Italian`s tenure and the possibilities it might bring. You can hardly blame us can you? The last year has been a bit of a drag. The euphoria of the dramatic Play-Off Semi-Final win over Charlton Athletic at The Valley seems like a distant memory. Wilson left and Paul Hart arrived who depressed the Town faithful even further before leaving within a matter of months. Chairman Andrew Fitton then departed which made our future seem very bleak.
Interim chairman Jeremy Wray then came in and started to find the new Town manager, the shortlist was impressive with the likes of George Burley and Dietmar Hamann being strongly linked to the club. Nevertheless, it was the former Sheffield Wednesday forward and West Ham United legend Paolo Di Canio who got the job.
So, the usual publicity emerges and perhaps there a little more interest from the national media too, okay there was a lot more national media attention. However, there was once aspect that has come to the forefront since Di Canio was first linked with Swindon. That aspect was fascism.
Paolo Di Canio was always a controversial character during his playing days. He was never one to keep his opinions to himself and his temperament was highlighted in September 1998 when he pushed referee Paul Alcock to the ground after being sent-off for Sheffield Wednesday against Arsenal.
He eventually found redemption at West Ham United where he settled and became a firm favourite amongst the Hammers faithful. He even won a FIFA Fair Play award for catching the ball instead of attacking when Everton goalkeeper Richard Wright fell to the ground injured.
It was his return to Italy with his beloved Lazio in 2004 when his political ideologies came to the attention of the world media.
Di Canio`s autobiography famously praised infamous Italian leader Mussolini, describing him as ‘basically a very principled, ethical individual’ who was ‘deeply misunderstood’.
This has upset a lot people and rightly so. The tattoo of ‘Dux` on his arm, a Latin equivalent of Mussolini`s nickname ‘Duce` has also angered scores of people.
The Italian was quick to defend himself for doing the Roman Salute several times while at Lazio in the fixtures against Roma and Livorno. Di Canio defended actions by saying, ‘I am a fascist, not a racist.” According the Telegraph even Italian Prime Minister, and fellow figure of controversy, Silvio Berlusconi leapt to Paolo Di Canio`s defense when he proclaimed that the shamed footballer was “an exhibitionist but a good lad”.
Eventually, Di Canio left for lower league outfit Cisco Roma and retired in 38.
Amongst the scores of pleased Swindon fans who are thrilled with the appointment of Paolo Di Canio. However, there is a assemblage of supporters who are ashamed that the club have appointed a man with fascist ideologies and unwilling to give the club their support. One minor sponsor even withdrew their interest in Swindon upon the appointment.
On the internet, the Swindon Town fan forums have been full of activity with supporters debating the Di Canio subject at great length. Many take the same stance as Jeremy Wray who felt that his politics was irrelevant and no different than asking an applicant what their religion or what their sexual orientation was. Others feel that the club have dropped a clanger by embracing fascism; some have even gone into exile seemingly until the day Di Canio departs. Their intentions are noble but they appear to be the minority.
So what does the average Swindon fan do? I would describe myself as an anti-fascist but I do not want to abandon the club I love to follow. Does that make me or any other Swindon fan evil?
Why haven`t those who are fervently against Di Canio taken to the County Ground in protest? This is a serious subject yet there have been no reports of anti-Paolo remonstrations other than a few online critiques and the occasional wind-up merchant on the social networks.
When debated, Di Canio dilemma is complex but the fact remains that Swindon Town fans simply should not be made to feel in the wrong for opting to continue following the club they support.
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