Italian club Lazio have defended new signing Elseid Hysaj amid abuse from the club’s hard-core ultra fans for singing the partisan song “Bella Ciao” during his initiation ceremony.
The Italian folk tune became the anthem of Italian Resistance in the 1940s, and was later adopted worldwide as a song of anti-fascist resistance.
Hysaj’s performance angered the club’s hard-core fans, known as ‘ultras’, who have links to the far right.
The Albania international was targeted by online abuse with a banner hung on a bridge in Rome reading: “Hysaj worm, Lazio is fascist”.
On Tuesday, the Roman club issued a statement to “condemn the shameful banner”.
“We support our athletes and all the players. We will never be on the side of those who deny the values of sport,” it read.
“We clearly distance ourselves from those who want to exploit this event for political purposes, damaging the team, all Lazio fans and the club.”
Thousands of other Lazio fans rallied behind Hysaj, who signed for the Roman club from Napoli on a free transfer, with the #IostoconHysaj (I’m with Hysaj) hashtag.