21 – God Save My Team (And Their Fascist Regime)

Been laid up with a cold, so a lack of runs to report on. Apparently if your body’s working hard to fight illness it’s a tad dangerous to work it harder with exercise, so that’s meant a few days of eating curry, drinking beer and watching TV.

Aside from finally getting round to watching the excellent Breaking Bad, I’ve spent a lot of time watching the media coverage of Paolo Di Canio’s introduction to my football club, Sunderland AFC.

Whilst I’m a massive Hebburn Town fan, Sunderland were the first football club I fell in love with, they were where I learned to love football. I followed them home and away, good or bad (mainly bad), quite literally across the world. Myself and some of the finest people I’ve met in my life thought nothing of plodding across to America to watch our heroes play meaningless pre-season friendly matches.

It’s safe to say I’ve had mixed feelings on Di Canio ever since he was a player. Mindful of his right-wing tendencies, there was still something wonderfully exciting about watching him that continued even into management and has made me think that level of excitement is probably beyond us. We’re a boring club; we don’t do flair. Kevin Ball, a defensive midfielder, is one of my generation’s poster boys. However, now we’ve secured the talents of the mercurial Italian I’m not sure what to feel. I think it best described as underwhelmed.

Underwhelmed that we’ve sacked one of the most successful British managers of his generation (and a Sunderland fan to boot) and replaced him with a man who has managed at League One level for less than a season, and below that the year before. The “fascism thin” just adds to it.

Politically, I lean slightly towards the left. Not a Trot, but someone who believes in fairness, integration in society and generally, everyone looking out for each other. Can I support someone who doesn’t share those same ideological values? The honest answer is that I don’t know.

I don’t know if it matters. I’m struggling to think of someone else within the entertainment industry with far right tendencies that I’m still a fan of. It seems strange there’s so few of them about. I have nothing to compare it to.

I should add that the club’s handling of the situation has been awful. Releasing a vaguely worded statement neither confirming or denying his fascist sympathies and instead repeatedly denying that he’s a racist is odd at best and downright frustrating at worst. Whilst Di Canio’s personal values are exactly that, either deny it or just shut up shop. Don’t just waffle and lie and then get angry at people for not understand something you’ve released that’s indecipherable. My only vague hope is that this gives the team some sort of siege mentality that they need to dig in and survive. Or at least I think I do. Whilst many are talking of boycotting the club until he’s gone, I’m undecided on the matter.

Do I want Sunderland to do badly because they’re managed by a fascist? No. Can I get behind him and hope he’s a massive success? No. Much like the appointment itself, I think my opinion on Di Canio is just one of utter indifference.

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