Friday, 5 August 2011

Sad start to new season with a fascist in charge at Swindon

It’s bad enough that the Football and Premier League don’t any longer kick-off on the same day but far, far, far worse is the fact that tomorrow the former starts with one team having a fascist for a manager.

Italian Paulo Di Canio, who in is playing career played for, amongst others, West Ham United, Celtic and Lazio has been given his first managerial posting at the County Ground, where Swindon Town will start the season with a home game against Crewe Alexandria in the fourth tier of English football.

When he was originally appointed in May one of the club’s sponsors, the GMB did the right thing and immediately pulled out of any future deal. You might have hoped that others in the game would have taken their own opportunities to, at least register their disgust with a man whose admiration for Benito Mussolini is no secret.

He’s the man responsible for backing Adolf Hitler in the Second World War, prior to which he passed anti-Semitic laws in his own country discriminating against Jews in all sectors of life and thus preparing the way for the deportation of thousands of Italian Jews to German death camps.

Then there’s his support for General Franco in Spain in the Civil War there that led to a military dictatorship for over thirty years. Not forgetting the reign of terror that Mussolini engaged on those Italians who opposed him, including the Socialist Party’s parliamentary deputy and fierce critic Giacomo Matteotti. Denouncing the 1924 elections, and the fascists 64% of the vote in it, as a sham he was kidnapped and murdered by assassins that were led by Mussolini’s press officer. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly it wasn’t too long before there were no such thing as an opposition party, or trade unions or anything approaching even a Murdoch style free press. Naturally further deaths and executions of opponents followed, including 30,000 Ethiopians in 1937, two years after their country had been invaded.

This is the man who Di Canio admires! So much so that in his autobiography he praised him as “basically a very principled, ethical individual who was deeply misunderstood.” To ram home the point the Swindon manager even has “Dux”, Latin for the Duke that was Mussolini’s adopted title, tattooed on his [right??] arm.

Six years ago, after giving the traditional straight right arm salute to followers of the club he supported as a boy, Lazio, he defended his actions by saying “I am a fascist not a racist.” All of which might have been lost on those he was saluting, Lazio’s ultra’s who had previously demonstrated their own anti-racist and Semitic credentials by displaying a banner taunting their Roma counterparts with the words “Team of blacks, crowd of Jews.”

Given a public opportunity to sympathise with those Jews who had been deported by Mussolini to their deaths Di Canio didn’t take it when a few short months after his salute he met some of those who had survived the concentration camps. “We must consider everything in the round and tell people of all the terrible stories that happened in World War II. “

So have others protested about this odious man being given a job in English football - after all there’s plenty of campaigns dedicated to ridding the game of racism, not forgetting sexism, homophobia and anti-semitism? 

Surely Kick-it-Out, Show Racism the Red Card, the Professional Footballers’ Association or the League Managers Association are ‘up in arms’ or if not, at least, offering a ‘tiny word; of protest? Sadly, you’d be wrong. Search their website’s and the best you’ll find is on Kick-it-Out’s, and that’s simply a link to a newspaper report about the GMB stopping its sponsorship. According to the excellent site Kick-it-Out has written to Swindon Town about their concerns, which the writer rightly identifies as meaning they’ve “ducked the issue.” As was also the case when Di Canio was interviewed on BBC Radio 5 earlier this week. 

Just in case there's any doubt what lies behind Di Canio's sympathies 

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