Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio has issued a statement saying he does “not support the ideology of fascism”.
Di Canio’s political views have been the subject of intense scrutiny following his appointment at the Stadium of Light this week, replacing the sacked Martin O’Neill.
Having previously identified himself as a “fascist but not a racist”, the 44-year-old declined to respond to direct questions about his beliefs during his unveiling to the press on Wearside.
Local religious figures and trade unions duly expressed their concern over the situation and, with the controversy showing no sign of abating, Di Canio has now moved to address the issue.
Di Canio said in a statement on the Sunderland website: “I have clearly stated that I do not wish to speak about matters other than football, however, I have been deeply hurt by the attacks on the football club.
“This is a historic, proud and ethical club and to read and hear some of the vicious and personal accusations is painful. I am an honest man, my values and principles come from my family and my upbringing.
“I feel that I should not have to continually justify myself to people who do not understand this, however I will say one thing only – I am not the man that some people like to portray.
“I am not political, I do not affiliate myself to any organisation, I am not a racist and I do not support the ideology of fascism. I respect everyone.
“I am a football man and this and my family are my focus. Now I will speak only of football.”