Supporters of the Scottish soccer giants Celtic FC have so far raised over £170,000 ($220,000) destined to benefit two Palestinian charities – the UK-based Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), and the Lajee Center in Bethlehem’s Aida refugee camp.
Celtic FC was fined by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) after fans had waved the Palestinian flag during the Champions League match against Israel’s Hapoel Be’er Sheva at Glasgow Park on 17 August 2016.
UEFA said the flag was an ‘illicit banner’ under Art 16(2) of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations. European soccer’s governing body warned Celtic fans travelling to Beersheba for the second leg of the tie that the Israeli police would not tolerate fans displaying the Palestinian flag.
In solidarity, the Green Brigade, which describes itself as “a broad front of anti-fascist, anti-racist, and anti-sectarian Celtic supporters,” established a GoFundMe page titled “#matchthefineforpalestine” to raise an amount equivalent to the fine.
The campaign’s initial £15,000 target was quickly surpassed thanks to overwhelming public response and, in a nod to the establishment of Celtic FC in 1888, the latest target has been set at £188,800. The club itself was founded as a charitable organization that would dedicate some of its profits to food relief in Glasgow’s historically poor East End.
The founders of the campaign said they wished to “highlight the plight of the Palestinian people” and let them know that they were “not forgotten.” In response, the Lajee Center created a YouTube video in which Palestinian youth described the initiative as “one of the biggest solidarity actions in European football history.”
While MAP supplies vital, emergency healthcare and social support to Palestinians living in refugee camps or under occupation, the Lajee Center is more of a cultural organization that provides Aida refugee camp children with basic sporting equipment and cultural programs.
Blog by Talal Husseini, Editorial Intern.
Talal Husseini is an Editorial Intern with IPS.