Celtic FC soccer fans raised over £30,000 24 hours after starting a GoFundMe page to pay an expected fine of £15,000 from European soccer’s governing body for the team’s display of Palestinian flags at a recent match against a visiting Israeli team.
On Aug. 17, Celtic fans made headlines when they flooded the stadium in Glasgow, Scotland with a sea of Palestinian flags despite the Union of European Football Associations’ ban on political displays at soccer matches.
The UEFA announced the opening of disciplinary proceedings against the team following the match on charges of “display of an illicit banner,” referring to the Palestinian flag. The federation has been criticized for its intentions to fine the fans from fans of other teams including from Hoops fans and supporters from other teams.
In response, Celtic fans launched the fundraising page and the hashtag #matchthefineforpalestine, saying that the matching funds would go to Medical Aid for Palestinians and the Lajee Center, a Palestinian children’s center in Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem.
The page describes the camp, “Aida is one of 19 refugee camps in the West Bank … Its residents live in the shadow of Israel’s apartheid wall, cut off from social and economic opportunities by the wall and neighbouring illegal settlements and military checkpoints.
“There are no organised (soccer) 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.’”
Lots more Celtic fans turning up with Palestine flags as the side take on Israeli side Hapoel Be'er Sheva tonight. pic.twitter.com/YdjGtCbj2N
— Liam O'Hare (@Liam_O_Hare) August 17, 2016
Initially aiming for £15,000, the page explained, “After around 7-8 hours we have hit just over £14k of our initial target of £15k. The response has been overwhelming and the generosity of the Celtic support and indeed others is absolutely humbling.”
On Tuesday, Hapoel Be’er Sheva and Celtic FC face off again in Israel in the Champions League first playoff round, with the first leg won by Celtic 5-2.
Israeli police have already threatened to arrest anyone caught displaying the Palestinian flag in the stadium.
In 2014, Celtic fans received a £15,000 from the UEFA for displaying Palestinian flags at a match.