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1 April 2013, 06:59
Ex Swindon Town manager Paolo Di Canio's been named as Martin O'Neill's replacement at the Stadium of Light.
New Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio has defended himself amid the controversy over his appointment - but may have to do more to convince anti-racism campaigners of his suitability.
The Italian's appointment to succeed Martin O'Neill prompted former foreign secretary David Miliband to stand down as Sunderland's vice-chairman and non-executive director, citing "the new manager's past political statements''.
Miliband's comments related to Di Canio's declaration to Italian news agency ANSA in 2005 that
"I am a fascist, not a racist''.
But in a statement released today by the club, Di Canio said:
"I don't have a problem with anyone. I don't know why I have to keep repeating my story, to be defending myself on something that doesn't belong to me every time I change clubs.
Talk about racism? That is absolutely stupid, stupid and ridiculous.''
He went on to claim his past comments were manipulated, and went on to say:
"I expressed an opinion in an interview many years ago. Some pieces were taken for media convenience.
They took my expression in a very, very negative way - but it was a long conversation and a long interview. It was not fair.
Sometimes it suits their purpose to put big headlines and a big story.
When I was in England (as a player) my best friends were Trevor Sinclair and Chris Powell, the Charlton manager - they can tell you everything about my character.
I don't want to talk about politics because it's not my area. We are not in the Houses of Parliament, we are in a football club. I want to talk about sport.''
He later added on Sky Sports News:
"If it's true the vice-chairman left for this reason, I'm very sorry but more than this, I don't know what to say - I don't want to talk about politics.
I don't want to sit here every six months, every six weeks, to clarify 'who is Paolo Di Canio'? I don't want to talk about these things any more.
Obviously I helped in some way, because I did something, but some interview that I made many years ago was twisted, people picked some words and they didn't use all the interview.
The people around me can suffer for this, my daughters for example, and I can't accept it because it's obvious that I'm not the sort of person that sometimes people try to indicate.''
Sunderland's chief executive officer Margaret Byrne said in the club's statement:
"Sunderland AFC is a traditional football club, with a rich and proud history. It has a strong ethos and ethics and that has not changed in any shape or form.
Naturally it's been very disappointing to read some of the reaction to Paolo's appointment in the last 24 hours. Anyone who has met Paolo and spoken with him personally, as we did in depth before making this appointment, will know that he is an honest man, a man of principle and a driven, determined and passionate individual.
To accuse him now, as some have done, of being a racist or having fascist sympathies, is insulting not only to him but to the integrity of this football club.''
The 44-year-old's only previous managerial experience came with Swindon, whose chairman Jeremy Wray today described Miliband's resignation as ``a sad knee-jerk response''.
Di Canio's 95 games in charge of Swindon brought 54 wins, helping the club win promotion from npower League Two in 2012 with Di Canio named as the division's manager of the year.