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Celtic fans raise funds for Palestinian charities But group refuse to answer questions on raising fund to pay UEFA fine

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Celtic fans have opened up a page to raise funds for two Palestinian charities on the back of a pro-Palestinian display during the club’s UEFA Champions League qualifier against Hapoel Be’er Sheva in midweek.

The page has raised over £20,000 [at the time of writing]in just ten hours, as the Green Brigade look to match the amount that UEFA will inevitably fine Celtic over the group’s political protest.

In a statement on the group’s fundraising page, they said: “At the Champions League match with Hapoel Beer Sheva on 17 August 2016, the Green Brigade and fans throughout Celtic Park flew the flag for Palestine. This act of solidarity has earned Celtic 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. We aim to raise £15,000* which will be split 50/50 between Medical Aid Palestine (MAP) and to the Lajee Centre, a Palestinian creative cultural children’s centre in Aida Refugee Camp, Bethlehem.”

The group added: “The money will be a much needed boost to the Lajee Centre who will be able to extend their activities to bring much needed relief via their arts, dance and football programmes. One such programme is that of youth football, with the Lajee Centre looking to organise a youth football team to take part in the Bethlehem Youth League. There are no organised teams in Aida, with basic equipment like boots in short supply. Funds raised will provide equipment, strips and travel costs to enable the camp to enter a team in the Bethlehem Youth League.

“In recognition of the show of support from Celtic fans and all those around the world Salah Ajarma, Coordinator of the Lajee Centre will name the team ‘Aida Celtic’: “it will mean so much to our young people to be part of an official team, to have boots and strips and to represent the camp wearing the colours of our friends. Aida Celtic will be a source of pride for all in Aida.”

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This is the ninth time that Celtic will face a UEFA disciplinary hearing over the conduct of their supporters in just five years, with previous incidents involving the use of pyrotechnics, offensive banners and chanting.

With many expecting Celtic to be hit with another fine, UEFA could consider stronger punishments such as closure of Celtic Park or bans on Celtic fans travelling to away games – if they feel that another financial punishment will not deter those perpetrating the rule breaches continuously.

We lined up a number of questions to ask the Green Brigade:

1. Would you be willing to raise funds – alongside the charity fundraising – to pay for the fine that Celtic could ultimately be hit with due to your political protest?

2. Is the group travelling to Israel for the second leg and will you be holding a second protest inside Hapel Be’er Sheva’s ground?

3. What do you have to say about the real threat of arrest by Israeli security services of Celtic fans who are in possession of the Palestinian flag?

4. What would your stance be if the club decided enough is enough and revoked your season tickets, on the back of another rule breach?

Our initial email to open up a dialogue resulted in a Green Brigade spokesperson saying: “F**k you and f**k your website!”

Very mature indeed and I suspect that is the same stance they take with the club being hit with UEFA punishments time and again. I wonder if the group will answer to the Celtic fans if or when their actions cause the ordinary fans, who just want to watch football, are locked out of the ground and prevented from supporting and cheering on their team.

The days of Seville in 2003 and being awarded the fair play award is a distant memory.

What will their statement be then? After all they claim to be true Celtic supporters, the lifeblood of the support.

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About Author

scotzine

Andy Muirhead is the Editor of Scotzine and the Scottish Football fanzine FITBA. He is the Scottish Football columnist for The Morning Star and has written for a number of other publications including ESPN, Huffington Post UK, BT Life's a Pitch and has had his work featured in the Daily Record, The Scotsman and the Daily Mail.

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