MENA Sports Wrap: Celtic fans tell Gaza YNWA with stunning Palestine flag tribute

MENA Sports Wrap: Celtic fans tell Gaza YNWA with stunning Palestine flag tribute
4 min read
27 October, 2023
Celtic fans dedicated their anthem 'You'll Never Walk Alone' to the people of Gaza, with the stands of Celtic Park bedecked with Palestinian flags.
Palestinian flags decked the North Curve for Celtic's Champions League game [Getty]

Celtic fans paid tribute to Gaza on Wednesday with a stunning display of Palestinian flags in the stands and the crowd dedicating their anthem 'You'll Never Walk Alone' to the people of the besieged enclave.

The Glasgow club has a long history of showing solidarity with the Palestinian cause despite fines from UEFA in the past over pro-Palestine displays by the club's famed Green Brigade ultras.

In Spain, football fans also made gestures of support for the people of Gaza, while a Nice defender is facing disciplinary action for a post on Israel's assault on the enclave, which has killed more

Celtic fans defy Palestinian flag ban

Celtic fans on Wednesday night defied the directives of the club's board and waved thousands of Palestinian flags during their team’s 2-2 draw with Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Champions League.

Hours before the match, the club issued a statement saying both teams' players and coaching staff would wear black armbands "as a show of respect and support for all those affected by the conflict", referring to the Israeli attack on Gaza and instructed fans to refrain from showing support for Palestine in the stands.

Fans dismissed the directives and held up thousands of Palestinian flags ahead of kick-off and continued to wave them throughout the match.

In the North Curve section of the stadium, home to the famous Green Brigade ultras group, fans unveiled a tifo of the Palestinian flag and unfurled large flags, waving them throughout the game.

However, the show of solidarity for Gaza was not just restricted to the Green Brigade, with the whole stadium erupting with a pre-match rendition of "You’ll Never Walk Alone" and waving Palestinian flags in tribute to the people of Gaza.

Most fans interpreted the club’s statements on the issue as a bid to censor them and neglect the political traditions of Celtic Football Club.

The affinity of Celtic fans with the Palestinian cause mostly originates through the club’s strong roots in Scotland’s large working-class Irish immigrant community and close affiliations with both Irish republicanism and Scottish nationalism.

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Spanish football fans defy police ban on Palestinian flags

Spanish football fans also displayed Palestinian flags and pro-Palestine banners at matches last weekend, in defiance of bans from the police and LaLiga.

Spanish police's sports body had reportedly called on clubs to "meticulously" check fans for "all types of symbols" related to the Gaza-Israel war before they entered stadiums.

But the searches weren't enough to prevent fans of Osasuna, Real Sociedad, and Sevilla from smuggling in Palestinian flags and banners into the stadiums and waving them throughout the games. 

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At Osasuna's home game against Granada, the silence was followed by the Basque-language chant of "Palestina Aurrera" ("Free Palestine"). 

The Osasuna game - which ended in a 2-0 victory for the home team - was blighted by controversy before kick-off, after Shon Weissman, an Israeli who plays for Granada, was left out of his team's trip to Pamplona for security reasons.

Weissman had reportedly made and liked posts on social media in defence of Israel's onslaught in Gaza after Hamas' surprise attack on the country on 7 October - but quickly deleted them. 

Weissman had stayed home for the match against Osasuna on the advice of Spanish police, according to local media reports. 

Nice defender disciplined over Gaza post

A defender for the French club Nice, Youcef Atal, has been handed a seven-match suspension by the French Football Association relating to an alleged anti-semantic social media post, according to reports.

Atal was already suspended until further notice last week after he shared a post on Instagram relating to the Gaza war.

The Algerian international's post was criticised by the mayor of Nice who demanded his removal from the Ligue 1 team.

Atal swiftly deleted the post and issued an apology: "I am aware that my post shocked many people, which wasn't my intention, and I apologise.”

"I want to clarify my point of view without any ambiguity: I strongly denounce all forms of violence, wherever in the world, and I support all victims."

Nice prosecution’s office reportedly opened an initial probe against Attal over charges of "defending terrorism" and "public incitement to hatred or violence because of a particular religion".

Atal’s suspension means he will not be able to play French football until at least 20 December.