Sunday, 7 April 2013

PAULO DI CANIO : A REBEL IN RE-INVENTION

In a week when North Korea's supreme leader Kim Jong-Un has threatened America with a Nuclear Missile strike; and  America's President  Barrack Obama has had to apologize to California's  female attorney general, Kamala Harris for calling her the " best looking attorney general ", it brings once again into sharp focus what values and standards we desire to hold as a society, where we are headed, and never forgetting of history. I'd rather rather my grand children lived in a society where public figures continue to be responsible and accountable.

Paulo Di Canio's appointment as Sunderland's manager has generated a blow-back from people inside and outside of football, given his on the record remarks and actions which can be interpreted as sympathetic to fascism. Di Canio has most often sounded perplexed by the unwholesome attention his past behaviour and utterances has suddenly drawn, at a moment when he is rightfully realizing his ambitions to manage in the premiership. I personally rate him as one of the most exciting players I watched in the premier league between 1997 and 2003. In fact, I felt he never got enough of the adulation his footballing skills deserved.

THE MAN : I would say is charismatic, impulsive, unhinged ( at times ) and fervently dedicated. We are talking about a man who claims his father slapped him ( as an adult ) for being rude to his mom. Paulo Di Canio would have evolved from that genre of young boys who are obdurate, rebellious misfits, most often in desire of acceptance as a maverick. It's commonly the time to stumble into the tent of some kind group or idea that represents who you are and your aspirations. That arguably explains Di Canio's dalliance with the Fascist elements, in the form of the "ultras" who make up a powerful minority of the fans of his beloved Lazio Football Club.
As a player, he played on the edge. There was a lot of intensity, if not anger, and even when he mellowed somewhat in the latter stages of his West ham days, the passion was still high voltage. His genial side was better reflected from when he became Captain of West Ham;  and that wonderful show of sportsmanship displayed when he had a chance to score, but decided not to, because the Everton keeper was hurt, in december, 2000. He got positive reviews for that, and an honour from FIFA. He opted for a pay cut to play for Lazio as a way of support in 2004,  due to the clubs financial woes, and it was against that backdrop he made the now infamous Roman ( or fascist ) gesture to Bennito Mussolini's grand daughter, after a derby victory against AS Roma. I must add, he looked rather demented with passion in that salute. Here is a man who offered to use his own money to keep some of Swindon's loan players while manager, with the Club  barred from transfer dealings owing to it's precarious financial state. Temperamental, volatile, but devoted to the game deeply. A complex personality, with  asymmetrical values.

METAMORPHOSIS : Di Canio craves recognition, and perhaps the intensity it evokes, coupled with his personality has not helped him. He was too hot to handle for Giovanni Trapatoni while a player with Juventus, and did not fair any better with Fabio Capello at AC Milan. When he arrived Britain via Glassgow Celtic, it mainly was with that rueful feeling of perhaps rejection and failure due to his uncompromising tendencies. But the wheels began to turn in the right direction for him when Harry Redknapp took him on at West Ham, and he later became captain. He finally arrived on the stage he so badly wanted. A hard head who is now a leader of men. Suddenly he became a rebel with a cause. He no longer had to create a scene to gain attention. It's no surprise he went into management with Swindon in League two, and brought them a division up as champions. Anyone who says there has not been antipathy to his opinions on fascism has not checked the record books to see that GMB ( a trade union ) ended their financial support for Swindon in protest at the Club's appointment of Di Canio as manager in 2011.  When Durham Miners Association  general secretary called the appointment of Di Canio as Sunderland manager "a disgrace and a betrayal......." it puts into context the contempt which a section of society holds the discredited ideology, and how Paulo Di Canio's stated views is an antithesis to his ambitions. A Club with a higher profile, on a stage he demands, has served to illuminate the fact that this society has it's values, and public actors can be held to account when their views past or present are narrow and controversial.
Di Canio has now publicly distanced himself from fascism and politics for the record, in order to put the matter to bed. After being a rebel for so long, even at the age of 44, perhaps he is learning a different sort of approach, if he is to truly realize his ambitions of leadership,  man-management, and success he believes he has a talent and passion for. His metamorphosis needs to be sharp and swift.

SUNDERLAND : and their reclusive American owner Ellis Short bifurcate into another chapter. A proud Club with a large base of enthusiastic and loyal fans. But a Club with a yo-yo history in the premiership. They have had passionate managers to match the identity of their fans - Peter Reid, Roy Keane, Steve Bruce, Martin O'Neil, but stability has continued to elude them. Here's what the trigger happy Ellis Short and the board need to know, that only two Clubs ( Swansea and West Brom ) promoted in the last 15 years occupy positions in the top ten of the premiere league currently. And only Fulham in that same period have established themselves quite securely in the elite division, amongst the tens of clubs that have gotten promoted. Appointing Di Canio is a huge gamble, and an unforced error. Martin O'Neil is way, way more experienced, and has the pedigree to go along. Di Canio would revive the enthusiasm and passion, but the putrid smell of relegation hangs around the Stadium of Light, and the cocktail of a manager with a volatile personality, a set of emotional fans, and a chairman who is reticent, but shoots from the hip, hardly sounds like comforting. I feel like for Di Canio and Sunderland, we shall be saying in the near future : " not surprised "


THE FA CUP WINNERS : Why do feel i Roberto Martinez and Wigan have their name written on the FA cup this year. Wigan are a finely measured and stapled team. They are drilled to the hilt in their 3-5-2 formation, and to me look a very good cup team. We all know on their day, they have beaten nearly everyone. I tip Man City to go past Chelsea in an epic semi final clash, but fall to Wigan on a Sunny May afternoon. Not since the 1987 and 1988 FA Cup finals have we witnessed real drama in the competition. One is impending.

YAYA TOURE : It's been reported has signed a new four year contract at Manchester City. He had a few weeks ago gone to press to purport the Club disrespected him over his contract negotiations. His latest position is that they ( Man City ) shall regain the title next season. First it was David Silva, who was in poor form at the start of the season till his contract was sorted ; now Yaya Toure. Watch out for Carlos Tevez turn. Then there is the over-rated Samir Nasri to come. I suggest what Man City actually need is a neon exit sign. Has there ever been a group of players and manager who so spectacularly contrived to throw away a season from a vantage position ?