Aida Celtic - The Beginning

On 17th August 2016, Celtic hosted Israeli side Hapoel Beer-Sheva in a
Champions League Qualification fixture. It was some weeks prior however,
when both clubs were drawn together, that the narrative surrounding the
fixture began. Celtic have a renowned left-wing fan base and coupled
with the strong Irish nationalist identity it is not unusual to see
regular shows of solidarity with Palestine on the terraces. Indeed, the
club had been fined by UEFA two years prior for its fans flying
Palestinian flags against Iceland's KR Reykjavik. With an Israeli outfit
due in Glasgow, much was made of the potential actions of the Celtic
support and more so the repercussions of such. 

A club rich in history, particularly such that extends beyond football,
it is of no surprise that Celtic supporters cherish and nourish the
social ethos which they believe separates them from all others. Its
ultras group, the Green Brigade, are arguably the figurehead of these
efforts. With a history of Palestinian solidarity, from simple support
banners to more ambitious projects, they have forged relationships in
Palestine – namely in Aida Refugee Camp, Bethlehem. Notably,
Palestinians in the West Bank have even shown solidarity banners with
the Green Brigade for their own struggles – a humbling thought but
evidence of the mutual respect.

Preceding the Beer-Sheva fixture was a predictable media rhetoric
influenced by UEFA, Celtic FC, Police Scotland and even some Celtic fans
who would rather sporting headlines than political. In spite of this,
the Green Brigade showered their section of the ground with Palestinian
flags. Although an iconic image in itself, it was what followed which is
most telling of the Celtic support and the entire, global Palestine
solidarity campaign.

As promised, Celtic would be charged by UEFA for its supporters’
actions - the resulting fine being £8,600. Defiant still, the Green
Brigade launched #MatchTheFineForPalestine with the hope of doing
exactly as their hashtag declared. Incredibly, the appeal quickly became
global with donations flooding in from worldwide supporters as the
story simultaneously grew in exposure. As the initial ‘UEFA fine’ target
was smashed, new targets were set with each continuously being

From Gaza to the West Bank, Palestinians showed their support and
thanks for the campaign: photographs of children and medical volunteers
displaying the appeal hashtag appeared; video messages from Aida Camp
filtered through; and a Gazan football team posed alongside a 'Thank you from Gaza' banner whilst lining up for a match. Amidst
the widespread donning of Celtic shirts and flying of makeshift Celtic
flags and banners by the locals, a massive Celtic crest was projected
onto the side of a West Bank building. It was actions like these which
lay the foundations for a legacy beyond this campaign.

Ultimately, a remarkable £176,076 was raised and split between two
beneficiaries. Medical Aid for Palestine (MAP) are a British charity
that provides immediate medical aid to those in critical need, while
also developing local capacity and skills to ensure the
long-term development of the Palestinian healthcare system. The Lajee
Center, from Aida Camp, are a grassroots creative and cultural centre
that works with new generations of Palestinians as they continue their
ongoing struggle for justice and rights for Palestine and all
Palestinians. Importantly, the latter had a relationship with the Green
Brigade which predated these events and more significantly provided a
base to build from.

Almost two years have passed since the donation was handed over.
Although the money raised has and continues to make a difference, plans
have been at work in the background to cement a stronger, lasting
legacy. 2019 brings the official launch of Aida Celtic, a football
academy representing Aida Camp. Managed locally by the Lajee Center and
supported internationally by the Green Brigade, it is hoped that Aida
Celtic will benefit from similar levels of support and generosity
afforded to the campaign which lay the foundations for its formation.

Integral to the success of Aida Celtic is the support network that it
will rely upon and the strategy for regalvanising the fervour which
surrounded the #MatchTheFine campaign. The exposure created by that
appeal spread awareness of the Palestinian plight and enticed
relationships to flourish. Several celebrity figures contributed to the
appeal at the time and Roger Waters even had the catalytic Palestine
flag display of 17th August 2016 on reel, during live concert, for
his worldwide audiences. Some understandably preferred to remain
anonymous - anon* have chosen not to.

It would be foolish for those behind Aida Celtic to expect the same
financial backing as that which we've previously covered - which is why
partnering with popular fashion distributor and marketer A Number of
Names* could prove vital. Anon* may not be a high street name however
are well established in the merciless market of fashion and retail.
Whilst the cynical may question the motive of the partnership, the
astute will recognise that Aida Celtic must generate income in order to
fulfil its aims. Aside from designing and supplying a quality kit for
the teams to play in, the familiar hooped shirt will also be launched
publicly with all proceeds to Aida Celtic. 

For now, Aida Celtic's aims are simple and modest - to provide young
Palestinian refugee footballers with a fully equipped and financed
football setup. With the correct stewardship, guidance and international
support it is hoped that Aida Celtic will flourish from
humble beginnings just like the club they borrow their name from. The
Celtic name is universal, the kit iconic, the story cherished, and their
supporters revered. Aside from the significant backstory here, Celtic
provides a perfectly poignant platform for another successful
underdog story. It is a universal belief that football can break
barriers and bring hope - it is hoped that Aida Celtic, who sit in the
shadow of an illegal separation wall, will be the next example of this.

Follow @aidaceltic on Instagram and @aida_celtic Twitter for further news and updates.