Celtic play Israeli side Hapoel Be’er Sheva in the second leg of their Champions League play-off tie tomorrow morning. They lead 5-2 from the first leg at Celtic Park.
The club face disciplinary action following the first leg where fans displayed Palestinian flags – what UEFA labelled ‘illicit banners’ – during the game. The fine was expected to be £15,000.
In response to what they called a ‘petty and politically partisan act’, a group of Celtic fans called the Green Brigade aimed to raise an amount matching the UEFA fine which would be donated to Medical Aid Palestine and the Lajee Centre, a cultural centre in the Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem.
The initial aim of $27,000 has been surpassed and donations are now at over $150,000. Given how expectations have been met and eclipsed so far, that number looks likely to increase even further.
In a statement on Go Fund Me, it was explained that part of the funds will go towards establishing and maintaining a football club – called Aida Celtic – in the camp.
Funds raised will provide a much needed boost to this fantastic project and will allow the Lajee Centre to extend its arts, dance and football programmes. As a token of their appreciation, the Centre have committed to setting up and sustaining the camp’s first ever football club and to name it Aida Celtic.
Aida Celtic will enter the Bethlehem Youth League at the start of 2017 and will host a tournament for teams from all of the West Bank’s refugee camps in Spring next year. Your generosity will also allow the Centre to buy a minibus for use in transporting Aida Celtic to matches and its other groups around Palestine.
Salah Ajarma, the Lajee Centre’s Coordinator told us the importance Aida Celtic will have for residents of the camp: “it will mean so much to our young people to be part of an official team, to have boots and strips and to represent the camp wearing the colours of our friends. Aida Celtic will be a source of pride for all in Aida”.