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Miliband quits Sunderland in protest at Di Canio appointment

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David Miliband quit for the second time in a week. After announcing his departure from British politics, the former foreign secretary has also walked out of English football. He resigned as Sunderland vice-chairman in protest at the appointment of Paolo Di Canio as manager.

Miliband, whose father fled the Nazis, took understandable offence at the appointment of a manager with professed fascist views, and quit immediately once it was clear that Di Canio was the new boss. “I wish the team very well over the next vital seven games,” he said. “However, in the light of the new manager's past political statements, I think it right to step down."

Di Canio's fascist sympathies were most prevalent during his time as a player with Lazio, when he regularly greeted fans with a straight-armed salute. As manager of Swindon the club lost sponsorship from the GMB union because of his fascist beliefs. In his autobiography, Di Canio suggested that Mussolini “was motivated by a higher purpose. He was basically a very principled individual."

Sunderland moved swiftly to appoint Di Canio after the sacking of Martin O'Neill. The manager was previously linked with the vacant manager's post at fellow Premier League strugglers Reading. Chairman Ellis Short said: "Paolo is hugely enthused by the challenge that lies ahead of him. He is passionate, driven and raring to get started. The sole focus of everyone for the next seven games will be to ensure we gain enough points to maintain our top-flight status."

Short's message in brief is that the manager can hold as many repellent political beliefs as he likes if he manages to save Sunderland from relegation. In the Premier League, morality has to take a back seat when vital points are at stake. Miliband's stand at least ensures that Di Canio may face a few awkward questions when he starts work.

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