Lazio footballer Hysaj under fire for Bella Ciao song

Lazio fans divided over video of Hysaj singing Italian partisan song.

The newly-signed S.S. Lazio footballer Elseid Hysaj has sparked a debate by singing the anti-fascist song Bella Ciao during a ceremony to present him to the Serie A club at the weekend.

In the video, posted on Instagram by fellow Lazio player Luis Alberto, some of Hysaj's teammates can be heard laughing and singing along to the song.

However the decision by the 27-year-old Albanian international player to sing the partisan anthem has not gone down well with the Rome club's hard-core 'ultras' fanbase.

Over the last couple of days Hysaj has been on the receiving end of insults on social media, with reports of a group of hardcore fans confronting the player outside a hotel to air their grievances in person.

Last night a banner signed by Ultras Lazio was attached to a motorway bridge in Rome calling Hysaj a "worm" (verme) and stating that the Lazio club "is fascist."

Banner on bridge over Corso Francia in Rome

Club responds

In an official statement issued this morning the club "strongly condemned the shameful banner against the player Elseid Hysaj," underlining: "We distance ourselves clearly from those who want to exploit this matter that damages the team, all Lazio fans and the club for political purposes."

Mutual respect

"We will not be intimidated by those who use violent and aggressive tones" - reads the statement - "for them there is no space in our world which is instead inspired by the healthy sporting values of loyalty and competition, mutual respect and civil co-existence and aimed at overcoming all barriers of a social, cultural, economic and racial nature."

Praise from Lazio fans

Alongside those who insulted Hysaj and urged him to leave politics out of football, many Lazio fans have praised the footballer for choosing the popular song in the hopes it will change the widely-held stereotype of the club's supporters as being right-wing.

#iostoconHysaj goes viral

The player has received widespread support on social media from Lazio fans tired of being accused of having fascist sympathies because of the club they support, with the hashtag #iostoconHysaj (I'm with Hysaj) trending on Twitter.

A brief history of Bella Ciao

Dating from the 19th-century, Bella Ciao is an Italian protest folk song which was modified and adopted as an anthem of the anti-fascist resistance by the Italian partisans.

The song is associated strongly with celebrations for Italy's Festa della Liberazione, a public holiday marking the country’s liberation from German occupation and fascist rule at the end of world war two.