Celtic fined for fans displaying Palestinian flag amid Israel-Gaza war

UEFA has fined the Scottish club after its fans waved thousands of Palestinian flags during the match against Atletico Madrid last month.

Celtic fans in the stands wave Palestinian flags
Celtic fans waved thousands of Palestinian flags during the match against Atletico Madrid last month [File: Andrew Milligan/PA via AP]

Scotland’s Celtic Football Club has been fined $19,000 after its fans waved Palestinian flags during a Champions League match against Atletico Madrid last month, UEFA has said.

The match, which took place at the club’s home ground Celtic Park in Glasgow, saw thousands of fans wave the Palestine flag and display banners supporting the people of Gaza amid Israel’s war on the besieged strip.

The governing body of football in Europe deemed the flags to be “provocative messages of an offensive nature” in a statement on Wednesday.

Fans, who had been warned by the Scottish club not to display flags before the October 25 game, could be heard singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” while holding the Palestinian flags in a video shared widely on social media.

As kickoff neared, the stadium transformed into a sea of Palestinian flags, every stand awash with the colours of Palestine in a show of solidarity with those in Gaza under Israeli assault.

Supporters also unfurled two large banners at Celtic Park that read “Free Palestine” and “Victory to the Resistance”.

The main flag bearers, literally and figuratively, were the Green Brigade – an “ultras” group formed in 2006, renowned for their Irish Republicanism and unflinching support for the Palestinian cause.

Fearful of penalties, the club urged fans not to heed the Green Brigade’s call to show support for Palestine at the match, releasing a statement asking “that banners, flags and symbols relating to the conflict and those countries involved in it are not displayed at Celtic Park at this time”.

A few days prior to the match, in an apparent warning to the group, Celtic banned the Green Brigade from all away games. Following the display against Atletico Madrid, that ban has been extended to all home games.

In a letter to fans, the club outlined several reasons for the ban, including anti-social behaviour, the use of pyrotechnics and crucially “against Atletico Madrid, another unauthorised display, breaching the restrictions previously communicated”.

The club was also fined $12,550 for fans blocking passageways and using pyrotechnics.

Fans say support for Palestine will continue

For the Green Brigade, there is little doubt that it was the display of solidarity with Palestine which led to a ban on their attendance.

“The other issues are a smokescreen,” the Green Brigade told Al Jazeera earlier this month.

“The club are very clever and cynical. They want to sanction us, they want to punish us. They want to send us a message to try to keep us in line and deter us from doing further action.

“But they know very well that on the issue of Palestine, they’re not on strong ground as they don’t have a lot of support amongst the wider fanbase on that issue. So they’re using other issues that they think they will have support on to sanction us.”

The group said they were “unashamed of and unequivocal of our support for Palestine” and insisted that it will continue.

“And once again the wider Celtic support showed that they too had the courage and conviction to stand and be counted. To side with the right side of history and voice support for the underdog, which in this case is the Palestinians.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies