An emotional debate over the presence of a Palestinian flag in a stadium drew me in. Dundalk Football Club from Ireland, with a capacity of 4,500, recently made the headlines featuring European football watchdog – UEFA.
On July 17th, in their Europa League qualifier loss against Hajduk Split, a group of supporters unfurled a Palestinian flag in the second half at the Oriel Park.
The UEFA match delegate on that day had asked the club to have the flag removed before kick off, with that request being adhered to. However, the fans still managed to get the flag flying with UEFA deeming this as violating their rules – (considered political because of the ongoing conflict in the region).
This led to the club receiving a fine totaling €18,000, even though the club, as till 24th August, was unaware of the breakdown of the charges.
Dundalk, since then, had issued a statement claiming that these flags are not “political”, “inappropriate” or “illicit”. However, UEFA saw the matter differently. To the club which would probably receive around €100,000 if they win the league, €18,000 is a significant amount. Hence, their plea for the small minority of fans to behave makes sense.
Now, I am aware that quite a few people have taken up to social media to vent their frustrations on this European double standard. Especially, when Israeli flags are a common sight across stadiums in Europe. To see one in the Amsterdam Arena and White Hart Lane is a very common.
Has Ajax or Tottenham been issued a statement, let alone a fine? Not at all.
I am all in for punishing clubs for acts of racism (including anti-Semitic chants) or violence but for flying a Palestinian flag; is superficially ridiculous.