The Stadium of Light: PR officials tried to stop journalists asking questions about Sunderland

No questions allowed: Fascist manager arrives at Sunderland

No questions allowed: Fascist manager arrives at Sunderland

Paolo Di Canio walked out of his first press conference as manager of Sunderland today, after journalists repeatedly pressed him on his commitment to fascism.

The former Lazio player was asked several times if he would still describe himself as a fascist, while a PR official warned reporters to stay off the topic.

Di Canio, who referred to himself mostly in the third person, appeared to tell journalists that he would refuse to allow them questions if they continued to ask about his politics.

He later stood up and left as reporters continued to ask questions.

"I don't have to answer that question anymore," he said.

"I don’t want to talk about politics. I'm not in house of parliament. I am not political person.

"You pick words. I can't keep going talking about life and my family. They offend Paulo de Canio. They offend my parents. I don't give anyone the chance to offend my parents.

"People want the opportunity for a ridiculous and pathetic situation which doesn't represent Paulo de Canio. I don't want to give the chance to a person to keep going in press conference if they don't want to talk about football."

The Durham Miners' Association said last night it is writing to Sunderland to demand the return of the Wearmouth Miners' Banner, which is on permanent display at the Stadium of Light, in protest at Di Canio's appointment as head coach.

Similar problems beset Di Canio's tenure at Swinden, where the GMB union withdrew its sponsorship of the club over his political views.

Former foreign secretary David Miliband has already resigned from the board of Sunderland Athletic Football Club over the appointment.

Di Canio prompted outrage in 2005 when he used a fascist-style 'Roman salute' to his SS Lazio fans. He received a fine and a one-game ban but avoided the lifetime ban suggested at the time by Fifa's president Sepp Blatter.

He later insisted he was merely "a fascist, not a racist".

He told the Ansa news agency in 2005: "The salute is aimed at my people. With the straight arm I don't want to incite violence and certainly not racial hatred."