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Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Swindon: I'll Accept Di Canio's Cuffs But Mourn His Spontaneity


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Sqf Heaney

 One of the better games over the FA Cup weekend was Swindon Town taking on Wigan. The League Two side defeated the Latics with a last-gasp goal; a goal which sent a certain enigmatic manager absolutely nuts on the touchline. And yes, Paolo Di Canio was given a one-match ban for his ‘exaggerated’ celebration. Was it just me who shook the head?

It seems Paolo must be contained for fear of him one day finally snapping, lighting his farts on fire and doing the can-can around the ground naked. To be fair, I understand you cannot run the pitch-length to celebrate and expect not to be banned. It can incite hatred. I know that. But I still love these moments. I guess, for me, it’s more acceptance. It is an act which within the modern game is going too far. But I accept that entertaining shows like the one Di Canio gave us are inevitably going to be punished. It’s just the way things are. Why fight it? It will probably only get worse.

But, of course, even though I accept it and try to understand it, that doesn’t mean I will ever agree with it.

Football is so glorious because it is unpredictable. A blank sheet; anything can be poured onto it in this swirling beacon of emotions and carnage, as the old cliché goes. And Di Canio’s insanity is an extension of this. Asking someone so alive, to trap his emotions, that’s robbing us of the chance to celebrate and bask in what our beautiful game can do. Just look at Di Canio! His attractive Swindon side scored a last-minute goal and progressed to the fourth round. It was a day where we should celebrate the shocks, thrills and spills our sport can throw up into the air. But it is tainted and evokes eye-rolling by modern confinement. It is football which has turned a passionate man into a crazed lunatic, into a child so hell-bent on enjoying his triumph that he runs around in front of thousands of people.

If you don’t enjoy these moments then by God you must be some kind of robot/Mark Lawrenson cross-breed. It is pure, unbridled emotion. It is swaying, tidal waves of disappointment at not winning, hope as they push up and then the lunacy of the best sight in the world: a glorious goal when it seemed so unlikely.

It is the addiction that is football and it is also reflective of realism. It is representative of real-life: some say he purposely went over the top. But I disagree. We all know how our wildest football celebrations have entered into the realms of the deranged. Football fans are like that – we cheer every goal and feel every loss. It’s how we operate even when our favourite teams aren’t playing: purely susceptible to emotion. And it’s brilliant because of that, a soap opera we cannot help but interact with. And Di Canio’s celebrations epitomise that allure. It’s just so … football.

I feel like it’s restricting the spontaneity of the game. It stems the flow, corrodes the natural atmosphere, and the way Di Canio celebrated is damn natural, and casts a dark cloud on the scenes set to unfold. Di Canio’s celebration was emotional, full of life; and so is football. It is reckless and often unexplainable and I just don’t want to trade in unreason and drama for reason, when reason is so evident in our normal lives but unreason and electric elation isn’t. We visit football grounds and follow it so intensely because it makes our existences less vapid and more entertaining (though it’s hard to abide by that notion when watching the morose Alan Shearer on Saturday nights, eh Dave?).

It’s not just a celebration; Di Canio did what was in his football nature to do, he did what he couldn’t help but do. He couldn’t stay on the touchline, nor keep his heart in check. He simply had to go bloody insane. It’s an example of our sport at it’s finest, and a reaction to our sport at it’s finest.

And so to dilute Paolo is sacrificing the spontaneity and the madness and the sheer emotion football. Joy, losing control and riding the crest of a wave, enjoying every last drop of emotion that may not come around again and may only last a split-second in the grander schemes of our football lives – all to be sacrificed for the cold stare of shackles. I guess – through gritted teeth – I have accepted that the boring, steely cuffs must be put on Di Canio. But I’ll always, always grimace as those ruddy locks are turned.
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Colin Illingworth

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