THE age-old argument about whether sport and politics should mix has raged in the past fortnight as the stand-off between Celtic and the Green Brigade ultras group over the display of pro-Palestinian banners at Parkhead has intensified.   

Not surprisingly, no consensus on the matter has been reached. The Scottish champions’ supporters have remained split as the bloody conflict in the Middle East has escalated.

A large number of fans, despite their empathy with the plight of the Palestinian population, agree wholeheartedly with the official club stance and would dearly like to see supporters concentrate on getting behind the team on the park. They are perhaps a silent majority.

The more partisan among them, though, vehemently disagree with the declaration that Celtic is “not a political organisation” and appear set to wilfully disregard the edict that “political messages and banners are not welcome” going forward.

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A statement which the Green Brigade released this week said: “We have the right to express political views on the terraces, just as ordinary citizens do elsewhere in society. Football remains one of the few areas of public life where working class people have genuine political agency.”

The missive went on to ask why public backing for Ukraine was acceptable after the Russian invasion last year.

Can you compare those global displays of support with unfurling banners at Parkhead which read “Free Palestine” and “Victory to the Resistance” on the very day that Hamas militants massacred over 1,000 innocent civilians in Israel and took hundreds more hostage?

The ultras argue they are, as they have done for many years, simply showing solidarity with a defenceless, oppressed and imprisoned people who have been the victims of countless war crimes.

But it is, particularly at this present moment, a complex, divisive and emotive issue. It is no wonder that Celtic have distanced themselves from their actions.

Glasgow Times: The Green Brigade, however, have no intention of backing down. They have called on fans to “remain true to the founding ethos of the club” and raise Palestinian flags at their Champions League group game against Atletico Madrid in the East End of Glasgow on Wednesday night.

Remain true to the founding ethos of the club? Is that what Brother Walfrid would have wanted then?

It will be no great shock if the safe-standing section of their ground, as has happened on more than one occasion in the past when directors have deemed the behaviour of the group to have crossed the line of what is acceptable, is closed for the visit of the Spaniards given the sensitivity of the ongoing situation.

Suspending the Green Brigade’s away ticket allocation indefinitely following unrest at the recent Feyenoord and Motherwell matches was very much a shot across the bows.

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The Celtic hierarchy has reportedly already prohibited the use of their tifos, which have enhanced the atmosphere at and increased the spectacle of big matches at Parkhead for years now, this season because of the “Pig Watch” posts on the North Curve Celtic account on X (Twitter). 

Photographs of policemen and women at stadiums around the country have been plastered on the social networking website in what has been described as a “perfectly legal defence tactic of documenting officers perceived to be intimidating, aggravating or harassing supporters” by the person or persons responsible.

Glasgow Times: Intimidating, aggravating or harassing? Those snapped are invariably just standing around in high visibility jackets doing not very much whatsoever. It would be laughable if there was not such a sinister side to it. Some of them have been publicly identified and had their names published online. Their personal safety could be jeopardised as a result.

Pig Watch. Singing songs about the IRA, Jimmy Bell and Davie Cooper. Lighting pyrotechnics under giant tifos and endangering the wellbeing of supporters, stewards and even players. Costing Celtic tens of thousands of pounds in UEFA fines. Disrespecting a minute’s applause in memory of The Queen?

How can they possibly expect to have their views on something as contentious as Middle East politics indulged at a football match in Scotland at a time of unimaginable suffering for millions when the charge sheet against them is so lengthy?

These are exciting times for Celtic. They have put their erratic early-season form firmly behind them and are, slowly but surely, getting back to something approaching their best. A win in the cinch Premiership fixture with Hearts at Tynecastle tomorrow would be significant. A result against Atletico in midweek, meanwhile, would increase their chances of securing knockout round European football this term.

Most of their followers would simply like to cheer on Callum McGregor and his team mates from kick-off to the final whistle in the hope they can extend their five game winning run domestically and make progress in continental competition without any unwelcome distractions.

It is arrogant of those with loud voices and entirely different agendas to presume they speak for every Celtic supporter and wholly wrong of them to believe conduct which may have damaging repercussions is backed by all of those who flock through the turnstiles at Parkhead on match days.