Celtic FC told UEFA to go fuck itself in not-so-many words after being fined €10,000 for waving Palestinian flags during its 5-2 Champions League qualifier win over Israeli champions Hapoel Be’er Sheva back in August by raising over $220,000 for its #MatchTheFineForPalestine initiative.
Celtic fans are largely Irish Catholics who view Britain’s centuries-long occupation of Ireland as a campaign of oppression and injustice. They see an analog between Israel’s occupation of Palestine and wanted to show solidarity with a group of people whose struggle they identify with. They weren’t just doing it to razz their Israeli opposition. They’re really about that life:
UEFA deemed the flags to be “illicit banners” because the organization doesn’t allow political protests, specifically “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.”
It’s a good law, in theory. You don’t want hooligans with ties to right-wing extremist groups propagating hate at your games. But that’s not what Celtic’s fans were doing.
Yes, the message was political in nature. But you can’t separate the politics of Celtic from the club itself; it is a quasi-political entity. And let’s not forget that UEFA is basically a mafia masquerading as a legitimate business; they’re in no position to be telling people what’s OK because they’re a bunch of fucking criminals themselves.
The irony is not lost on Celtic’s fans. To make sure UEFA knows just where they can stick it, they launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for two respected charities that operate in Palestine, Medical Aid Palestine and the Lajee Centre, to match any fine that would levied on the club.
And their plan worked. Really well.
Hell, they’re getting love all the way from The Dark Side of the Moon:
Pink Floyd’s Rogers Waters projected the Celtic fans display for Palestine onto the big screens at his concert in Mexico City last night. pic.twitter.com/7qirP6crOB
— Liam O’Hare (@Liam_O_Hare) September 29, 2016
To date, Celtic supporters have kicked in over $220,000, more than 20 times the $11,000 fine assessed on their club. This hasn’t gone unnoticed in Palestine:
I get that UEFA wants to keep politics out of soccer, but the Celtic fans were coming from a place of compassion.
I’m with Celtic fans on this one.