GLASGOW, Scotland — Scottish soccer giants Celtic removed Palestinian flags from their stadium on Wednesday after accusing fans of “exploiting” a tribute to Scott Brown.
Celtic Park was opened to allow supporters to display messages of support for Celtic captain Brown ahead of a match against St Johnstone, the last home fixture of his 14 years at Parkhead before he joins Aberdeen.
But some fans took the opportunity to display Palestinian flags, following several days of escalating tensions in the Middle East, with Islamist terror group Hamas launching rocket attacks on Israel and the IDF responding with airstrikes in the Gaza Strip.
“We had invited supporters to pay tribute to our club captain, Scott Brown, by giving them the opportunity to display their own banners in the stadium,” said a Celtic statement.
“Unfortunately a small group, which was given access in good faith, has attempted to exploit this opportunity, taken advantage of an occasion intended for our club captain, Scott Brown, and used it for a different purpose.
“Clearly this is unacceptable and the display was immediately taken down by the club.”
Sectarianism has long been a feature of Scottish soccer, sparking particularly bitter clashes in Glasgow between leading sides Celtic, a club with its origins in the city’s Irish immigrant Catholic community and Rangers, a team with a largely Protestant fan base.
A number of Celtic fans have associated themselves with the Palestinians’ cause, whereas the Israeli flag has been flown at home games of arch-rivals Rangers.