Ferguson expresses admiration for Di Canio

07 April 2013 12:46

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has admitted that he is a fan of Sunderland counterpart Paolo Di Canio, despite the furore over the Italian's political views.

Di Canio's appointment at Sunderland created a storm of controversy, as the 44-year-old had previously described himself as a fascist.

In response, he released a statement earlier this week in which he said he was "not a racist" and "does not support the ideology of fascism".

Di Canio has only previously worked as a manager at Swindon Town, who he led to promotion from England's third tier, but Ferguson says he has been impressed by the former West Ham United striker's approach.

"I must confess to a liking for the fellow and his approach to the game," Ferguson told the United match-day programme, United Review.

"As I wrote the other week, he wears his heart on his sleeve and I like his football philosophy, wanting to play the ball on the ground rather than in the air.

"I have this picture in my mind of him being in the technical area pointing to the sky and then the ground in an effort to get his players to keep the ball down."

Di Canio was due to take charge of Sunderland for the first time on Sunday when his side visited Chelsea in the Premier League.

His former West Ham team-mate Shaka Hislop says he has no doubt that the Italian is not a bigot.

"Without any reservation, I don't believe Paolo Di Canio is a racist," Hislop told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"I say that because he's been a friend to me, not just offering me professional respect as a team-mate, but I also look at how he interacted with my wife and kids when they came around.

"I've never heard him speak any kind of political views or ever heard any hint of his thinking or ideology, not as a player."

However, Di Canio was photographed giving a Roman salute to Lazio's fans during his time at the Italian club, and Hislop believes he must therefore provide a full explanation of his personal beliefs.

"Fascism in its, let's say, more mild form is not seen in Italy as being all that bad or disturbing but there is still a lot of uncertainty about it as an ideology in western Europe and across the Atlantic," he said.

"This is what I'd like to hear because I'm not overly convinced by saying, 'This is a Roman salute, let's get on with it.'

"I want a proper explanation because I think there's wider implications to it.

"As much as fascism can have a moderate side, there is an extreme element and I would like to know if Paolo falls into that category. And if he doesn't, what was his salute all about?"

David James, another goalkeeper to have played with Di Canio at West Ham, said he also had concerns about his former team-mate.

Writing in The Observer newspaper, the former England goalkeeper said the Italian "had a habit of behaving a bit like a dictator".

Although James said he never witnessed any evidence of racist views from Di Canio, his Roman salute at Lazio "confirmed my view of him as an unlikeable person".

Source: AFP