The Europa League fixture between current Scottish League leaders Glasgow Celtic and Israeli side Hapoel Tel Aviv was played in front of a half empty Parkhead Stadium on a bitterly cold December night. Some 32,000 hardy souls braved the frosty air to watch a match which was televised live on ITV4 and audio broadcast live on BBC Radio.
The atmosphere inside the normally fervent Celtic Park was a little subdued owing to the weather and the knowledge that even a Celtic victory would probably not be enough to ensure the Hoop’s progression in the tournament.
There was a demonstration both inside and outside the stadium on behalf of the Palestinians, whose football teams are usually unable to compete on the International stage due to travel restrictions by the Israelis.
The BBC report of the game
`Celtic exited the Europa League despite Tony Mowbray's side overcoming Hapoel Tel-Aviv in Glasgow to record their first win in Group C.
The Israelis, beaten by goals from Georgios Samaras and Barry Robson, progressed along with Hamburg after the Germans' 2-0 win over Rapid Vienna.
Samaras pounced to head home after 22 minutes from an Aiden McGeady cross as Celtic dominated the first half.
Robson curled in a free-kick after 68 minutes in a more even second period.
It was no more than a consolation played out in front of a half full Celtic Park that was more subdued than on most European occasions as Hamburg and Hapoel were left to slug it out for the top spot in the final game in Israel.`
• 24 Zaluska
• 02 Hinkel
• 05 Caldwell
• 11 Fox
• 22 Loovens
• 06 N'Guemo
• 17 Crosas
• 19 Robson
• 46 McGeady (Naylor 73)
• 07 McDonald
• 09 Samaras (Fortune 62)
• 01 Enyeama
• 03 Douglas
• 04 Bondarv
• 19 Ben Dayan
• 06 Natcho
• 10 Badir
• 14 Vermouth
• 15 Menteshashvili (Lala 46)
• 09 Shechter
• 11 Yeboah (Vucicevic 46)
• 26 Yadinyellow card (Zahavi 78)
From the Socialist Unity website
The SPSC (Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign), in conjunction with the Scottish Trades Union Congress, is mobilising for a demonstration in solidarity with the Palestinians when the Israeli football team, Hapoel Tel Aviv, appear in Glasgow on Wed 2 Dec for a Europa League fixture against Glasgow Celtic. The reasons for this demonstration of solidarity are as follows:
Israel attacks Palestinian sports facilities bombed Gaza stadium.
Israel usually prevents the Palestinian team from competing:
• Before the last World Cup, Israel forced Gaza players to wait weeks at the Israeli controlled Rafah border to join their West Bank team-mates for training - in Egypt!
• Stopped from travelling to play a World Cup qualifier in Singapore in 2007, they were eliminated for failing to turn up. FIFA refused to allow them to re-schedule.
• The team were barred from travelling to India in May 2008 for the AFC Challenge Cup with possible qualification for the 2011 Asia Cup.
• The Palestinian National Youth Football Team was barred from re-entering Gaza for over a month after they competed in Jordan in June 2007.
• The British government helped Israel by refusing visas to enter Britain for a tour - the official reason being that the Palestinian players were ‘too poor to be trusted to return home’. (These are the most tenacious people in the world in clinging to their homeland despite massive Israeli violence!)
• The team are usually forced to play “home” matches in a virtually empty stadium - abroad.
• Israel allowed the Palestinian national team one single match on home soil, in October 2008 but not in Jerusalem and team captain, Saeb Jundiya, was barred from leaving Gaza.
During Israel’s assault on Gaza three Palestinian players were killed in their homes by Israeli bombs: Wajih Mushtahi, Khalil Jaber and Ayman Alkurd.
Israel bans footballs (as well as pasta and coffee) from entering Gaza! Israel claims footballs, pasta and coffee could be used for military purposes. The real purpose is to cause hunger and misery to the people of Gaza. Most Palestinians are refugees, victims of earlier waves of Israeli ethnic cleansing, and exile means they are unable to participate in the national sporting institutions of their country.
Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) Deputy General Secretary Dave Moxham said: “This December marks the one year anniversary of the Israeli invasion of Gaza in which 1400 men, women and children were killed in an act described by the United Nations as ‘indicating serious violations of international human rights’ and ‘amounting to war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity.’
“Israel also continues to flout international law through its illegal occupation, through increasing settlements and building its so-called security wall which separates Palestinians, family from family and community from community.”
“When the Israel team Hapoel Tel Aviv visit Celtic Park on Wednesday night, millions around the world will be watching including those living in Israel and Palestine.
“I am today writing to Celtic FC and Hapoel Tel Aviv FC outlining the reasons and purpose of this call and making clear that we attach no blame either to Hapoel Tel Aviv players, nor their fans, for the outrageous actions of their government.
“We hope that Celtic fans will join with us in a demonstration of support for a just and lasting peace in Israel/Palestine based on a safe and secure Palestinian homeland living side by side with Israel.”
The BBC Scotland website reported: `Celtic 'concerned' by STUC Palestinian flag call`
Celtic Football Club has opposed calls from a union body for its fans to wave Palestinian flags at Wednesday's match with Israeli team Hapoel Tel Aviv.
The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) has asked supporters to "show solidarity with suffering Palestinians" at the Europa League game in Glasgow.
In a statement, Celtic said it was "extremely concerned" at the request.
The club said a crowded match was not the place for a public demonstration which could compromise safety.
Last week, STUC deputy general secretary Dave Moxham said a demonstration at the game was justified.
He said: "This December marks the one year anniversary of the Israeli invasion of Gaza in which 1,400 men, women and children were killed in an act described by the United Nations as 'indicating serious violations of international human rights' and 'amounting to war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity'.
No matter the rights and wrongs of any cause, a crowded football match is not the place for a public demonstration
"Israel also continues to flout international law through its illegal occupation, through increasing settlements and building its so-called security wall which separates Palestinians, family from family and community from community."
Mr Moxham said millions around the world would be watching when Hapoel Tel Aviv visited Celtic Park.
He added: "I am writing to Celtic FC and Hapoel Tel Aviv FC outlining the reasons and purpose of this call and making clear that we attach no blame either to Hapoel Tel Aviv players, nor their fans, for the outrageous actions of their government.
"We hope that Celtic fans will join with us in a demonstration of support for a just and lasting peace in Israel/Palestine based on a safe and secure Palestinian homeland living side-by-side with Israel."
The call, however, is understood to have angered Celtic, who do not want to see the game become politicised.
Celtic FC statement
In a statement on Tuesday, the club said it was "extremely concerned to learn of a call to hold demonstrations" at the game. It said: "Our primary concern is that event safety may be compromised by the diversion of police and those involved in public safety duties, away from their main task which is the well-being of all fans attending the match.
"No matter the rights and wrongs of any cause, a crowded football match is not the place for a public demonstration.
"We have further concerns that any behaviour within Celtic Park, in breach of Uefa regulations and the Respect campaign, will have serious implications and consequences for Celtic as a club.
"Celtic FC urges our supporters to come and back the team and for everyone attending Celtic Park on Wednesday evening to behave in a responsible manner that does not compromise or divert resources from public safety or bring the club into disrepute."
The club said it welcomed the Israeli team and its supporters to the stadium and believed football was "a powerful medium for social integration".
It said: "Celtic has always been a club for all people, regardless of gender, age, religion, race, politics or ability.
"We therefore believe Celtic Park is no place for a political demonstration."
Perhaps one could paraphrase the Celtic official who said: `No matter the rights and wrongs of any cause, a crowded football match is not the place for a public demonstration`. It could be said that a crowded place like the Gaza Strip is not the place for a murderous assault on innocent people such as Operation Cast Lead. At least the demonstration at Celtic Park was completely non violent and nobody was injured.