Celtic fans raise over £100,000 for Palestine in protest at UEFA charge

Published August 23rd, 2016 - 11:44 GMT
Photo: goal.com
Photo: goal.com

Celtic fans have raised over £100,000 for Palestinian charities in protest at UEFA charging the club over a flag display.

Hundreds of supporters took part in demonstrations outside Celtic Park before the club's Champions League play-off tie with Israeli side Hapoel Be’er Sheva last Wednesday, before flying the national flag of Palestine inside the ground.

Following the tie, UEFA charged the club over an "illicit banner" display, releasing the following statement: "Disciplinary proceedings have been opened following the UEFA Champions League play-offs, first leg, between Celtic FC and H. Beer-Sheva FC (5-2) played on 17 August in Glasgow [Scotland]."

In repsonse to the disciplinary action, a group of Celtic supporters created a Go Fund Me page in view of raising £100,000 for Palestinian charities, including Medical Aid Palestine, which delivers health and medical care to those “worst affected by conflict, occupation and displacement,” and the Lajee Centre, a cultural and sports project for children in Aida refugee camp, in Bethlehem.

The group used #matchthefineforpalestine to head the campaign.

The appeal read: "We, the Green Brigade, are the passionate Ultra fans of Celtic Football Club, Scotland’s most famous and successful football team. At the Champions League match with Hapoel Beer Sheva on 17 August 2016, the Green Brigade and fans throughout Celtic Park flew the flag for Palestine.

"This act of solidarity has earned our club respect and acclaim throughout the world. It has also attracted a disciplinary charge from UEFA, which deems the Palestinian flag to be an ‘illicit banner’

"In response to this petty and politically partisan act by European football’s governing body, we are determined to make a positive contribution to the game and today launch a campaign to #matchthefineforpalestine.

"We aim to raise £75,000 which will be split equally between Medical Aid Palestine (MAP) and the Lajee Centre, a Palestinian cultural centre in Aida Refugee Camp on the outskirts of Bethlehem. From our members’ experiences as volunteers in Palestine we know the huge importance of both organisations’ work and have developed close contacts with them.

In just 24 hours, donations amassed £77,000 and the target was raised to £80,000.

The statement also said the money raised would help buy football kits and equipment to enable the refugee camp to have a team, which would be called Aida Celtic, in the Bethlehem youth league.

Despite Celtic facing their ninth UEFA punishment for supporter behaviour in five years, many have praised the Green Brigade for their actions, including Martin Milligan, a Celtic fan, who told Glasgow Live: "We took a stand last night because we had to.

"This was an Israeli team, one whose town is built on occupied Palestinian land.

"They were allowed to travel here freely for the game. Israeli football clubs can go anywhere they want, from Israel to any country in the world. That freedom of movement is not shared with Palestinian teams and players, who have restrictions imposed on them.

"There have been numerous incidents in recent years where that has happened."

Celtic travel to Beersheba for the second-leg of the tie on Tuesday, though supporters have been warned similar actions will not be tolerated at the 16,126-capacity Turner Stadium.

Israeli police spokesman Chief Inspector Micky Rosenfeld said: “Obviously it won’t be allowed – that is for sure. The flags would of course be taken off them. This is a professional football game and not a political opportunity."

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