Mercy Shawn Mendes
3 April 2013, 17:37
New Sunderland boss Paolo Di Canio has distanced himself from allegations that he is a fascist.
Since taking the job on Wearside, the Italian has faced questions about statements he has previously made about being a fascist.
The Dean of Durham has become the latest public figure to voice disquiet over Di Canio's appointment.
On Tuesday at a news conference, Di Canio refused to answer questions about his political beliefs, but has now done so through a statement on the club's website.
The statement says:
"I have clearly stated that I do not wish to speak about matters other than football, however, I have been deeply hurt by the attacks on the football club.
This is a historic, proud and ethical club and to read and hear some of the vicious and personal accusations is painful. I am an honest man, my values and principles come from my family and my upbringing.
I feel that I should not have to continually justify myself to people who do not understand this, however I will say one thing only - I am not the man that some people like to portray.
I am not political, I do not affiliate myself to any organisation, I am not a racist and I do not support the ideology of fascism. I respect everyone.
I am a football man and this and my family are my focus. Now I will speak only of football.''
In an open letter to Di Canio, the Dean of Durham, The Very Reverend Michael Sadgrove, said his appointment had raised some very difficult questions.
He said as a child of a Jewish war refugee he found Di Canio's alleged beliefs "deeply troubling''.
The dean called on the Sunderland boss to renounce fascism as he was in danger of being associated with groups like the British National Party.
He went on to say that politics and high-profile sport, like religion, were about the whole of life and that football is deeply political.
Di Canio has also been criticised by the Durham Miners' Association, which demanded the return of its Wearmouth Miners' Banner, which is on permanent display at the Stadium of Light.
In a 2005 interview, Di Canio stated he was "a fascist but not a racist'' and he has also been pictured apparently giving a fascist salute to Lazio "ultras''.
New photographs have also emerged of Di Canio apparently attending the funeral of a well-known Italian fascist.