So often in Australia sections of the media go out of their way to find negative stories about football in order to put the game down, for fear it may one day take a hold in this country and usurp their hybrid game. These people are not to be confused with others who genuinely care about the game and try to highlight failings in the game’s administration in the hope that lessons can be learned and the game can in fact grown and become stronger. Sadly many of those involved purely due to self interest fail to actually differentiate.
Overnight there was a beautiful story which shows how football and true fans can show real affection.
Swindon Town won the Second Division Championship under former West Ham legend Paolo di Canio. This was his first season in charge of a club and many felt that the Wiltshire club had taken a huge risk by appointing such an emotional and passionate coach. What has transpired has been truly remarkable and di Canio deserves all of the credit he is receiving lifting the team to promotion in his first season.
It did not look promising at the start of the season, with the team winning just one of their first four games. Soon after followed a much publicised scuffle between the coach and one of his strikers Leon Clarke, in the tunnel after their Carling Cup match against Southampton. Yet this may well have been the turning point in the season, as Clarke was sent out on loan and the team was galvanised into winning games.
What made this season all the more special and has lifted di Canio into legendary status at the club was the fact that prior to the club’s away game to Plymouth in October his father passed away. It hurt di Canio deeply, as it was his father who had urged him to take the job at Swindon when it came up. Then the day before the return fixture his mother passed away. Di Canio opted to stay in the dugout for the game, and flew back to Italy afterwards, saying there was not much he could do in the interim and he had a job to do.
Yesterday as the team celebrated their achievements with a comprehensive 5-0 demolition of Port Vale, during the celebrations di Canio donned a T shirt with the following words written in Italian, “Mum and Dad all this is thanks to you!” With pictures of his parents on the front.
When the photograph was published one Swindon fan commented “he may have lost his mum and dad but in Swindon he has 12,000 extended family.” Di Canio has stated that he stayed at the club during difficult times because he promised the fans promotion. He has delivered and the manner in which he has conducted himself this season he has been an example to many and is why he will always be loved by his ‘family’ in Swindon.
Football truly can unite people when there is respect and honesty, di Canio is an example of both, even if at times his methods are a little different!