Why Man Utd, Liverpool won’t let fans carry Palestinian flags

Published October 31, 2023
CELTIC Football Club fans wave Palestinian flags during a match against Atletico Madrid at Celtic Park in Glasgow.—Reuters/file
CELTIC Football Club fans wave Palestinian flags during a match against Atletico Madrid at Celtic Park in Glasgow.—Reuters/file

ANY attempt to express political views using the platform of sports always evokes heated debate. Agreement or disagreement with the express­ed statements and gestures aside; the issue mostly divides people over the use of sport for symbolism, political or otherwise.

The debate around this issue has been rekindled in the backdrop of the situation unfolding in Gaza following the events of Oct 7.

On Twitter, fans of Manchester United and Liverpool claimed they were evicted from stadiums for displaying flags and symbols to express solidarity with the people of Palestine.

“15 years I’ve been a season ticket holder at this club, and today they assaulted us and threw us out for displaying a Palestinian flag peacefully for 30 seconds at half time,” said a Manchester United fan, who goes by the name Laher on X (formerly Twitter).

The incident took place on Sunday at the club’s Old Trafford stadium, during a match against Manchester City, who won the game 3-0.

In a series of posts, he added the stewards “gave no reason [and] no warning” while asking him to leave.

The fan also alleged that the stewards assaulted him in the presence of Manchester police.

He claimed that in the past two weeks, flags of Greece, Armenia, Cyprus have been displayed at the stadium and added: “[Y]et a [Palestine] flag is apparently an issue.”

Two days ago, a Liverpool fan was escorted out of the club’s Anfield stadium for allegedly waving the Palestine flag and wearing a hoodie sporting a fist with ‘Free Palestine’ inscription.

The incident’s video was shared widely on X. The victim, whose X handle is lfcrazz, reposted one of the videos and wrote: “[A]ll I did was show solidarity to my people who have and are being killed every day for many decades now…”

Before these incidents, both clubs had not publicly posted on any of their social media platforms or websites about the prohibition of waving the Palestine flag in the stadium.

Meanwhile in Scotland, hardcore or ultras Celtic fans, known as The Green Brigade, have held banners of “Free Palestine” and “Victory to the resistance!!” during their team’s matches, and pledged “unequivocal support for Palestinians.

This has happened despite the Premier League’s guidance to the clubs last week to prohibit Israel and Palestinian flags inside stadiums.

But sporting events and sportsmen have, in the past, been celebrated for taking stances that have become symbolic of political expression.

For example, the legendary boxer Mohammad Ali is revered for his position on the civil rights issues in the US and his refusal to enlist for the Vietnam War, which even earned him some jail time.

In cricket too, apartheid South Africa was ostracised for over two decades over the government’s policy of discrimination along racial lines.

Throughout history, sports continue to offer a platform to raise voice for just causes and condemn atrocities.

While the relationship betw­een the two is subjective, the undeniable underlying factor is that sports and politics are so intricately linked that the mere suggestion “don’t mix sports and politics” is not going to untangle them, or erase history.

Published in Dawn, October 31st, 2023

Opinion

Editorial

Debt trap
Updated 30 May, 2024

Debt trap

The task before the government is to boost its tax-to-GDP ratio to the global average by taxing the economy’s untaxed and undertaxed sectors.
Foregone times
30 May, 2024

Foregone times

THE past, as they say, is a foreign country. It seems that the PML-N’s leadership has chosen to live there. Nawaz...
Margalla fires
30 May, 2024

Margalla fires

THE Margalla Hills — the sprawling 12,605-hectare national park — were once again engulfed in flames, with 15...
First steps
Updated 29 May, 2024

First steps

One hopes that this small change will pave the way for bigger things.
Rafah inferno
29 May, 2024

Rafah inferno

THE level of barbarity witnessed in Sunday’s Israeli air strike targeting a refugee camp in Rafah is shocking even...
On a whim
29 May, 2024

On a whim

THE sudden declaration of May 28 as a public holiday to observe Youm-i-Takbeer — the anniversary of Pakistan’s...