Celtic will doubtless be in trouble with UEFA over the display of Palestinian flags during last night’s amazing 5-2 Champions League playoff first leg victory against Hapoel Beer Sheva. And given previous punishments in recent years over flares etc it seems likely to be a hefty sanction. Perhaps a fine, perhaps even a partial stadium closure.
Folk holding the flags aloft did it in full knowledge of the problems it might bring for the club. It was a judgement call for each and every person to make, but some issues are just so big that folk understandably feel compelled to take a stand, and live with the consequences. Even if that ultimately means part of Celtic Park being closed for a blockbuster Champions League home tie, and making the club liable to even harsher punishments in the event of future transgressions.
I must admit that it was hard not to be moved by some of the reaction to the flag display from around the world this morning. An important point was made, and it has been noticed. However, I suspect the club hierarchy is (not unsurprisingly) tearing its hair out over the looming UEFA sanctions and wishing that fans would take their politics and humanitarian concerns elsewhere!
There were never going to be any easy answers here. The moment that Celtic v Hapoel Beer Sheva tie came out of the ‘hat’ someone in the Celtic family was always going to end up feeling unhappy. Right now it is the board. In a short time it could also be the fans who can’t get a ticket to a game on account of a partial closure of the ground.
However, away from the purely footballing considerations there is something undoubtedly noble about wanting to highlight the plight of those living in extremely difficult circumstances, especially when there are likely to be consequences for speaking out.
We won’t know those consequences for a little while, but it is safe to assume that the UEFA Match Delegate will have noticed the display of Palestinian flags and mentioned them in his report. [How could he not?!?]
Which makes the manic activity of some of our Sevconian friends to shop Celtic to the authorities all the more pitiful. Even the most cursory glance at social media last night and today reveals a decent number of folk breaking their necks to run and tell tales to the UEFA teacher.
These Wannabe Wallaces (😉) are making an absolute spectacle of themselves, telling the football authorities and anyone else connected to the Champions League and/or Israel that Celtic did a bad thing and need to get into trouble.
I’ve seen Twitter exchanges where journalists are being pressed to highlight the wicked club’s misdemeanours – even though many outlets managed to print stories about Palestinian flags almost as soon as the game kicked off last night. A level of haste which might suggest that the articles were prepared in advance…
I’ve seen made-up tales, howls about offensive behaviour and desperately-wishful thinking that Celtic might get kicked out of Europe completely.
It is absolutely embarrassing stuff, churned out by a minority whose loathing for the solvent, Big Cup-winning, 5-in-a-row Scottish Champions oozes from every single pore of their bodies. Whether the demise of Rangers and a wish to see Celtic suffer a similar fate underpin these actions, or whether they are simply the result of a debilitating inferiority complex, we may never know. However, what is clear is that their unhappiness and resentment burns in every fibre of their being. And it is as extraordinary as it is pathetic.
I wish the best of luck to anyone trying to tell these folk that their moon-howling rage and tale-telling won’t make a blind bit of difference. UEFA has disciplinary processes which will be worked through, and which won’t be influenced by fictional stories from outrage-affecting ‘concerned citizens’. Nor will UEFA be swayed by 3,000 emails proclaiming that ‘Celtic iz evul and needz banning’. And I have a very strong feeling indeed that UEFA won’t change their approach on the basis of Sevconian correspondents leaving the Caps Lock on as they bash out their angry views.
Last night will have consequences for Celtic. But a number of Sevco fans shaking their fists at the sky will have no impact whatsoever. Unless of course ‘humiliating yourself’ is suddenly designated as a form of performance art, in case they might clean up at awards ceremonies around the world.
I’ll leave you with my favourite goal from last night, courtesy of the always-excellent @celticgoals. Do give them a follow.