Appeal Raises £100,000 For Palestinian Charities

Celtic fans have raised more than £100,000 for Palestinian charities in just two days after the club was charged by Uefa over a flag display during a match with an Israeli team.

 

A number of fans displayed Palestinian flags during the 5-2 home Champions League victory against Hapoel Be'er Sheva last week, prompting the European governing body to launch disciplinary proceedings.

The Green Brigade supporters group initially aimed to match any potential fine and launched the appeal on the Gofundme website on Sunday.

But the amount raised has grown so quickly, doubling in 24 hours with contributions coming from fans of other teams, that the target has been revised.

Funds are to be split between Medical Aid Palestine (MAP), a UK-based organisation that "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 the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem.

Some of the money will go specifically towards funding a football team within the refugee camp, providing boots, strips and transport. The team - to be named Aida Celtic - will enter the Bethlehem youth league in 2017.

A plea on the fundraising page reads: "At the Champions League match with Hapoel Be'er Sheva on August 17, 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.''

A MAP spokesman said the charity is "delighted by the generosity of Celtic fans'' and all those who have donated to the campaign. He added: "They have transformed their passion into a genuine force for good.''

Celtic face their ninth punishment in five years when the case is heard on September 22. The club was fined more than £15,000 when a Palestine flag was displayed during a Champions League qualifier against KR Reykjavik two years ago.

Uefa rules forbid the use of "gestures, words, objects or any other means to transmit any message that is not fit for a sports event, particularly messages that are of a political, ideological, religious, offensive or provocative nature''.

The appeal page has been shared more than 23,000 times since it was launched.

Celtic play Hapoel Be'er Sheva in the away leg on Tuesday, with Israeli police said to be operating a "zero-tolerance policy'' against any display of Palestinian flags.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Celtic fans could be ejected from the stadium if they display Palestinian flags during the match.

He said around 250 supporters of the Glasgow club have made the trip to the south of Israel, with no incidents so far reported in the run-up to the game.

"What we saw with the Palestinian flags last week we're hoping won't reoccur - and if necessary our police units will respond and remove flags and if necessary remove supporters,'' Mr Rosenfeld said.

"Police units will respond to any incidents both by Be'er Sheva fans or Celtic fans.

"Our units are in and around the city, in the malls and in the pubs.''

He added that he hopes the game will be played in a "sports atmosphere and not a political atmosphere''.

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