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Soccer and Politics Latest Intersection – Fans of Scottish Club Glasgow Celtic Show Support and Solidarity With Palestine

August 22, 2016

Politics making its way into soccer stadiums across Europe is nothing new; the two have been inextricably for nearly a century. Many clubs across the continent are rooted in political, ideological, and even religious affiliations. While governing bodies such as FIFA and UEFA have done their best to separate the product on the field from politics, fans have continued to use the sport for political and ideological means.

The latest intersection of the politics and soccer occurred during a Champions League qualifying match between Scottish club Glasgow Celtic and Israeli club Hapoel Beer Sheva last week. Celtic supporters waved Palestinian flags and sang songs in support of the Palestinian cause. Celtic supporters have long identified with left-wing revolutionary independence movements, including Palestine. This is largely due to Celtic’s history of a Catholic club for Irish immigrants. The match was not selected at random, the act was carefully deliberated and planned due the opponent being an Israeli club, though Celtic supporters have shown solidarity with the Palestinian cause in the past.

UEFA, Union of European Footballing Associations, has opened up disciplinary proceedings against Celtic following the display. Under  UEFA rules, messages that are of a, “political, ideological, religious, offensive or provocative nature” are banned and subject to fines and other disciplinary measures.

Celtic have turned the disciplinary proceedings and potential fines into a way to further their cause. Fans have helped raised over £34,000 as of Monday, August 22nd for Palestinian charitable causes, including medical aid and youth soccer initiatives. The initial goal was £15,000, however supporters answered the call and more than doubled that total.

As one member of the Green Brigade, Celtics Ultra group, (Ultra is a term used for a fanatical supporter of a soccer club, that often go far above and beyond the normal means of support.) said, “Football and sport do not live in a vacuum, separate from wider society”. Soccer and politics have been complexly intertwined throughout the history of the sport. With tensions in Europe high due to issues such as: Brexit, the migrant crisis, security concerns, economic uncertainty, and growing nationalist movements, we are likely to see an increase in political statements this soccer season. By opening up disciplinary proceedings against Celtic for their actions against Hapoel Beer Sheva, UEFA has set a precedent for the coming season that may be tough to uphold, given the vague wording of their own rules and what can be construed as politicized displays.






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