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Apr 2, 2013

Paolo Di Canio refuses to talk politics

New Sunderland manager refuses to talk about his political views.

New Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio refused to expand on his political views after being asked during his first press conference Tuesday since taking the job whether or not he was a fascist.

The 44-year-old admitted in a 2005 interview with an Italian news agency to being "a fascist, but not a racist" and his apparent political leanings have already led to the resignation of the club's vice-chairman David Miliband, Labour MP for South Shields and a former foreign secretary.

"I don't have to answer any more this question, there was a very good statement from the club, (with) very, very clear words that came out from me," Di Canio said Tuesday in reference to the club's statement on Monday.

"I don't want to talk any more about politics for one reason because I'm not in the House of Parliament, I'm not a political person, I will talk about only football."

The new Sunderland manager issued a statement on Monday on the club's website, saying any suggestion that he is racist is "absolutely stupid."

The statement came after Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) director Piara Powar called on the former Swindon boss to explain his past admission.

"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," he said.

Sello Hatang of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory said he met Monday with Sunderland's management "to discuss the public debates around Sunderland's new coach. Mr. Di Canio participated in the meeting."

Sunderland players wore the foundation's T-shirts before Saturday's game against Manchester United, which was designated "Nelson Mandela Day" at the club.

Hatang said the partnership with the club is a commitment to "human rights and anti-racism ... Sunderland reaffirmed its commitment to these values."

The Durham Miners' Association has asked the club to return a symbolic banner which is kept at the Stadium of Light if Di Canio remains in his post, describing Di Canio's appointment as a "betrayal and a disgrace."

Asked if he had a message for the DMA, Di Canio said: "I have said many, many words in the past and people have picked the words they wanted, I can't keep going on about my life and my family. The people who are talking in this way, they don't understand Paolo Di Canio."

Asked if the focus on politics was making his job more difficult, he said: "No. Because always there is an issue if people try to put you in difficulty for a ridiculous and pathetic situation which doesn't represent Paolo Di Canio. So I'm not worried."

There were repeated calls for Di Canio to clarify his views on fascism at Tuesday's conference, but he swatted them away.

"The fans have to think my life speaks for me," he said. "Call Trevor Sinclair, call Chris Powell, call (his agent) Phil Spencer, he's Jewish. Call them -- who is Paolo Di Canio?"

Information from The Associated Press and Press Association was used in this report.

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