Paolo Di Canio, Sunderland’s controversial pick for manager following Martin O’Neill’s sacking, is likely a fascist in the same way that old Italian man in Il Gato Noir is a fascist. The title is a loaded, provocative word on a t-shirt or a button, a symbol that one clings to a false nostalgia for a time in which old ladies could presumably walk down the streets at night and when the trains were never delayed, and everyone and anyone was unmistakably Italian.
It’s more than likely Di Canio harbours ugly views on immigrants in Europe, particularly those of the Islamic faith. But that would not make him any different than many of the UK broadsheet opinionators who strongly cling to nationalist/militarist symbols, are attracted to populist leaders, and believe in the importance of a strong, well-funded military. It wouldn’t be too difficult to imagine Richard Littlejohn having a grand old time out on the town with the former West Ham striker, despite the position of some his Mail colleagues. Some of the comments on the Telegraph news page indicate readers share more than a little common ground with Di Canio’s political beliefs.
This is not to defend Sunderland for their choice in Paolo Di Canio, but to point out that there may be a little self-conscious projection going on in the otherwise welcome condemnation of his personal beliefs. After all, few did much to follow up with John Barnes’ recent and rather serious contention that most “manager[s] and player[s] who [are] over forty” regularly used the n-word in relation to black players. Few save for Jacob Steinberg pressed for serious action following antisemitic chants at West Ham last November. It took an overtly-racist quip in 2004 to force Ron Atkinson from the air and the papers, despite a history of casual racism, including the referral to Brian Moore of one of the Cameroonian national team’s parentage watching their World Cup match against England “from up a tree.” And John Terry seems more than able to continue on in his football duties unmolested by the majority of the national papers.
Still, English football is moving in the right direction in their disdain for Di Canio’s beliefs. But unless the ire continue through the still-murky cultural core of English football’s hidden corners, it risks hypocrisy.
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Bit and Bobs
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Thanks to Alima Hotakie for compiling today’s links.