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Celtic fans raise thousands for Palestine in protest at UEFA charges

Supporters started fundraising for Palestine after UEFA said it would fine club for the flying of Palestinian flags at Champions League match
Greenbrigade come out in defiance at Celtic match (AFP)

Celtic fans have raised more than £30,000 ($39,309) in less than 24 hours for Palestinian children in a show of solidarity after vowing to match any fines levied against the club after hundreds of supporters flew Palestinian flags. 

The move comes after UEFA, the European football governing body, notified Celtic of a possible rule breach in their 5-2 win against Israeli side Hapeol Beer-Sheva last Wednesday. 

Fans unveiled Palestinian flags in a show of solidarity with the Palestinian people and in opposition to the human rights abuses of the Israeli government. 

A UEFA statement said: "Disciplinary proceedings have been opened following the UEFA Champions League play-offs, first leg, between Celtic FC and H. Beer-Sheva FC (5-2) played on 17 August in Glasgow [Scotland]."

UEFA said the charges against Celtic were over the alleged "display of an illicit banner," which contravened rules on the politicalisation of football.

Fans behind the protest set up the funding campaign in a bid to create a "positive contribution" for the Palestinian people and in opposition to UEFA's decision which they described as being "petty and politically partisan". 

The campaign was highlighted on the GoFundMe website used by many to raise funds for causes all over the world. Users on Twitter used the hashtag #MatchFineForPalestine to highlight the campaign.

Campaigners planned to donate the funds raised to Medical Aid for Palestine (MAP) and the Lajee centre, a Palestinian creative cultural children's centre in Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem. 

Screengrab of crowdfunding campaign

The fan page said it planned to use the funds raised to also help create a Palestinian youth football team to compete in the Bethlehem youth league. 

Salah Ajarma, coordinator of the Lajee centre has also said on the crowdfunding page that it planned to name the youth team "Aida Celtic" in recognition of the show of support from Celtic fans and everyone who donated to the crowdfunding page. 

Abdul Hussein, who attended the fixture and is a lifelong Celtic Fan told Middle East Eye last week that fans were already planning to pay the fine as a show of solidarity to the Palestinian fans. 

"Celtic fans will support the cause of Palestine, regardless of the rules in place, and the Hapoel match is not a first for Celtic support for Palestine, and certainly not the last," said Hussein. 

The £15,000 target set by the fans was based on previous fines given to the club after fans had displayed Palestinian flags during a Celtic match fixture in 2014. 

The UEFA decision on how much the club will be fined is set to be announced on 22 September. Fans who began the crowdfunding page said in a statement that it planned to amend the target of the page based on how much the club will be fined.

Celtic has a strong history of defying UEFA rules relating to Palestinian flag flying. The club was last fined £15,000 after fans flew Palestinian flags during a match against Iceland's KR Reykjavik.

UEFA said at the time that the fine was imposed because the flag violated their rules on political expression.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.