Top positive review
3 people found this helpful
It's almost like having Di Canio in the same room as you.
on 19 October 2000
I've just finished reading Paolo Di Canio's spell-binding autobiography. It's 4am. The wife's snoring, the baby's in cloud cuckooland, and my last mug of hot chocolate ran out hours ago. I'm exhausted yet elated at the same time.
If you read only one sports autobiography this year, then I urge you to make this the one. I'm not a West Ham fan, in fact I'm only an occasional follower of football, but Di Canio's life story resembles a motion picture that sweeps you along on a tortuous ride of mountainous highs and despairing lows.
Close your eyes and you can just imagine yourself side-by-side with Palloca, or 'fatty' as Di Canio was somewhat unkindly nicknamed as a youngster. Even in his teens, it seems his desire to make something of himself would translate into an existence of extremes: from knife-wielding battles with his brother and indulging in mob culture with the Lazio supporters' club, to violent arguments with an assortment of coaches and incandescent rage at being left on the bench. The world of Michael Owen and Joe Cole must seem like an episode of Teletubbies by comparison. But this guy is no one-dimensional footballer, no stereotype, no blank canvas. He articulates his views on the Protestant-Catholic divide during his time at Celtic with as much heartfelt passion and level-headed logic as the most experienced political activist; his near nervous breakdown while on Sheffield Wednesday's books is so gut-wrenchingly close to the bone; and as far as family life is concerned, he leaves this reader in no doubt as to why a footballing environment need not spell doom and gloom to bringing up responsible and educated children.
Okay, Di Canio has some pretty alarmist views on politics (he's a fan of Mussolini) and an entrenched opinion on referees (according to him, he has never had a good referee in a Premiership match - surely not, Paolo!). But if every media celebrity expressed his opinions with as much zeal and unbridled conviction as this guy, hell, I for one would sit up and take notice. Yet despite the traumas, the trials, the darker moments, this book also packs a punch in the humour stakes. I won't spoil the Peter Grant 'fish story' for other readers; suffice to say that you'll never again be able to look at a Scottish footballer with a straight face. And it still gives me bellyache thinking of Di Canio's girl's-blouse-of-an-argument with a ranting Ron Atkinson, which brings a whole new meaning to the phrase 'post-match debriefing'.
Never mind An Evening with Gary Lineker. Five minutes in the company of Paolo Di Canio (yes, spooky as it seems, reading his book is like having him there beside you in the same room) will leave you wanting more...and more. It's an absolute cracker!
PS Don't they have awards for books like this?