PETALING JAYA: UEFA are likely to sanction Scottish club Celtic over the action of some fans during a Champions League qualifier against Israeli club Hapoel Be’er Sheeva yesterday, SkySports reported.
In the match played at Celtic Park, a large section of fans of the Scottish Premier League champions had waved the Palestinian flag. Celtic won this first leg 5-2, with the return leg scheduled for next Tuesday in Israel.
UEFA rules state that no political expressions of any kind are allowed in football, and had explicitly banned Palestine flags in light of the political statement it makes against the Israeli side.
So, considering that the fans’ action could be seen as a provocative gesture, UEFA may come down hard on Celtic, with a possible fine aside from having the club play one or more European home matches in an empty stadium.
According to SkySports, this would not be the first time that Celtic are being punished.
European football’s governing body have fined Celtic eight times in less than five years for a variety of offences, one of which was for waving Palestinian flags at another Champions League qualifier on July 22, 2014, against Iceland’s KR Reykjavik.
At the time, the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, which later came to be known as the “50-day war”, was just into its third week and there was a lot of sympathy on the part of the Scots for the people of Palestine.
In the conflict, more than 2,000 Palestinians were killed, including 490 children, with another 11,000 people injured. Also, 20,000 homes in Gaza were destroyed, forcing up to 500,000 Palestinians to be displaced.
However, The Herald Scotland reported that the waving of the Palestine flag in yesterday’s match was not a case of tokenism.
“It’s not the case that the plight of the Palestinians has become trendy and therefore a group of football fans have latched onto it. Celtic have a long tradition of flying the flag of the Arab Revolt at games and there does seem to be some sincerity in their politics,” the report said.
Previously, Celtic fans had waved the Palestine flag during a Europa League home match against another Israeli club side, Hapoel Tel Aviv, in December 2009.