The Scottish club fans defied UEFA rules and threats by police during the Champions League qualifier against Israeli Hapoel Beer Sheva.
Fans of Scottish soccer club Celtic waved the Palestinian flag during their team’s Champions League qualifying match with Israel’s Hapoel Beer Sheva on Wednesday, the ninth time the club's fans have made a statement of defiance against UEFA’s ban on political expression in five years.
The action was organized by a group called Celtic Fans for Palestine which posted a Facebook event titled, “Fly the flag for Palestine, for Celtic, for Justice" last week.
John, an organizer of the event, told the Al Bawaba website that fans hoped to show Palestinians that support for them was alive and well in European soccer.
“Radical politics and Irish politics has always existed in Celtic Park,” John explained. “When the first Intifada broke out, that’s when support for Palestine in the club really started.”
Celtic football club grew from Scotland’s marginalized Irish communities and it draws on struggles for social justice and workers’ rights in Glasgow.
The group explained that the protest is opposed to the participation of Israeli teams, “who under UEFA's own rules should not be allowed to participate in this competition due to the system of apartheid laws and practices including religious and ethnic based colonization, military occupation and segregation of what remains of Palestinian land.”
Members of the group distributed free Palestinian flags for Celtic fans as they arrived into the stadium for the match.
Celtic fans have consistently taken a strong stance in support of Palestine. Two years ago, UEFA fined the club 16,000 pounds, more than US$20,000, after fans flew Palestinian flags during a game against Reykjavik.
Also in 2012 Celtic fans expressed solidarity with striking Palestinian hunger strikers by flashing banners and flags during another game.