12/24/2005

The Crazy Career of Paolo Di Canio

It seems that Paolo Di Canio's latest moment of madness may finally force him to hang up his boots.
If that were to be so, one could feel saddened at the ignominious end of what has been the exceptional career of an exceptionally gifted soccer player; and, typically, Di Canio would have nobody to blame but himself.
The Dogman, you see, is the fan who lived the dream. A native Roman, he joined his beloved S.S. Lazio as a teenager from the ranks of Lazio's 'Irreducibili' on the terraces. He was transferred to Napoli in order to fill the boots of Diego Maradona, which, according to Marcello Lippi, the coach who hired him, he did more than admirably.
He then went to the mighty Juventus, predictably falling out with Giovanni Trappatoni in the process, and from there to AC Milan, where he was part of the squad that won Lo Scudetto in 1996 under Fabio Capello.
And then he went to Celtic.
In one season in Glasgow, Di Canio distinguished himself by scoring 14 goals, playing like a monster, training like a monster and falling out with the Chairman, one Fergus McCann. So he went to Sheffield Wednesday.
At Wednesday, he received one of the longest suspensions on record, 14 matches, for pushing over a referee. So they sacked him and he was picked up as a reject by West Ham United.
For three seasons, Paolo Di Canio was West Ham United. During his time there he became the club captain, won the Goal of the Season award and picked up FIFA's Fair Play award for the finest act of sportsmanship exhibited by a soccer player anywhere in the world in the previous year - he had deliberately stopped a West Ham attack on Everton's open goal in order to let the Everton goalkeeper obtain treatment.
When West Ham were relegated, he joined Charlton for a season, and from there he went home to Lazio in order to end his distinguished career.
Di Canio combines great technical flair with a work ethic second to none. Almost all of his problems with managers and team-mates seem to have sprung from differences of opinion about their contribution, or lack of it, to the performance of the team.
His politics, and actions, are of course abhorrent; yet there is an acute difference between Di Canio the fascist and bin Laden the fascist. Bin Laden is a dull, bloody, dreary kind of fascist, one whose utopia would be a nightmare of unending joylessness. Di Canio may describe himself as a fascist - but if he possesses no magic in his head or his heart then he has it in spades in his feet.
He knows his job is to help Lazio to win matches, score goals and entertain 60,000 people in the Stadio Olimpico with dazzling footwork, which he does whenever he's not falling out with people; and the 'Irreducibili', who are after all his own people, love him for it.
He'd be one of the first picks on my team sheet.

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