One of the most controversial players to ever play in the Premiership is the ‘Italian Stallion’ Paolo Di Canio. The Italian striker became a legend at West Ham, where he was a scorer of great goals and the Hammers’ fans lapped up his talent. There was also another side to the Italian though and his behaviour on the pitch and off it threatens to overshadow his ability on a football pitch.
Paolo Di Canio is one of the most mercurial talents that both England and Scotland have ever seen. Di Canio will forever remain a footballing enigma, misunderstood at times, but there is no question he had masses of ability and on his day was simply unplayable. He was one of the games great characters, larger than life, but with a football he was simply a magician and some of the skills and tricks he produced could leave you breathless at times. He will forever be remembered by his adoring East End public who still happily sing his name and must be considered one of the best foreign imports to grace our game.
The controversial Italian striker made his name in the Premier League for Sheffield Wednesday when he made his move to English football in 1997. Di Canio is remembered as much for his misdemeanours on the pitch as his incredibly skill which shouldn’t be forgotten. The Italian also scored one of the greatest ever Premiership goals, volleying home for West Ham against Wimbledon, which was voted as BBC Goal of the Season in 2000.
His most famous misdemeanour on the pitch was in September 1998, when Di Canio pushed referee Paul Alcock to the ground after being sent off against Arsenal at Hillsborough. This resulted in an extended ban of 11 matches but didn’t put off West Ham from signing him in January of the next year. Also Di Canio infamously made a fascist salute to some right-wing fans during his time at Lazio.
However, alongside the Italian’s great football ability, Di Canio should also be remembered for his sporting act in December, 2000. In a match for West Ham against Everton, Di Canio turned down a goal scoring chance by catching the ball as goalkeeper Paul Gerrard lay injured on the ground. FIFA described the act as a “special act of good sportsmanship” and the Italian was given the FIFA Fair Play Award at the end of the season in 2001.