Scottish football club Glasgow Celtic could face punishment from European football body UEFA after fans defied a ban on flags during their Champions League qualifying match with Israeli team Hapoel Beer Sheva on Wednesday.
Celtic fans waved the Palestinian flag during the game, an act of defiance of UEFA rules that was organised by a group called Celtic Fans for Palestine.
The group called for Celtic fans to “Fly the flag for Palestine, for Celtic, for Justice" in a Facebook post published last week.
According to the group, under UEFA rules Israeli teams “should not be allowed to participate in this competition due to the system of apartheid laws and practices including religious and ethnic based colonisation, military occupation and segregation of what remains of Palestinian land.”
Group members were reportedly on standby before the game to distribute free Palestinian flags to supporters as they entered the stadium.
Palestinian flags were seen being waved in the stadium during the first-leg game, which Celtic won 5-2.
The group’s Facebook page, which also expresses support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against “Israeli apartheid, settler colonialism, and countless massacres of the Palestinian people,” suggests that around 1,200 of its members attended.
Scottish police had warned fans not to bring the flags to the game, but the fan group instead responded by calling on UEFA to back their activism.
“When someone is representing Israeli state institutions it is sadly never merely a game; football, UEFA, and Celtic FC are being used to whitewash Israel’s true nature and give this rogue state an air of normality and acceptance it should not and cannot enjoy until it’s impunity ends and it is answerable to international law and faces sanctions for the countless UN resolutions it had breached,” the group’s Facebook page said.
Celtic, a club founded by Irish migrants to Scotland, previously faced fines of more than $20,000 for waving Palestinian flags during a game in the Icelandic capital Reykjavik two years ago.
The incident was the ninth time in five years that the club’s supporters defied UEFA rules.