Mass demo planned for Scotland Euro clash

Mick Napier says hundreds will protest at the game.
Mick Napier says hundreds will protest at the game.
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A HIGH-profile European qualifying match in the Capital is set to be targeted by hundreds of protesters over the alleged detention of Palestinian football players.

Campaigners are set to gather at Tynecastle Stadium as Scotland play Israel in a women’s Euro qualifier on Saturday.

Organisers said that the demonstration would be mounted both outside the stadium and on the terraces during Saturday’s game.

They refused to rule out the possibility of direct action such as a pitch invasion.

Protesters plan to buy £5 tickets for the match to take banners and flags into the Hearts ground as part of a campaign backed by former Manchester legend Eric Cantona.

Hearts’ officials said security arrangements for the protest had been put in place by police following consultations with the club.

The protest comes in the wake of comments by Fifa president Sepp Blatter who expressed “grave concern about the alleged illegal detention of Palestine football players”.

Mr Blatter highlighted the case of Palestine player Mahmoud Sarsak, who lives in the Gaza strip, who was arrested at a checkpoint while on his way to the West Bank for a match with his national team in 2009.

He was interrogated for 30 days, imprisoned and denied visits from his friends or family, according to FIFPro, the world player’s union.

Campaign groups in Scotland, including Friends of Al-Aqsa and the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC), will take part in Saturday’s protest before and during the 3pm game.

Tynecastle is the home of the Scotland women’s football team, and the match against Israel follows the home side’s 6-1 win on the opening day of the campaign to reach the finals of the Uefa Women’s Euro 2013 tournament.

SPSC chairman Mick Napier said: “We’re expecting hundreds of people to take part in the protest. The main group of protesters will gather at 2pm although some will be there from 1pm. We will be protesting both inside and outside the ground.

“We have flags and banners and we’ll be making a lot of noise. It’s only £5 a ticket so we will be in the stadium during the game. We’ve already had a meeting with police about the protest.”

When asked if the protesters intended to mount any form of direct action, such as invading the pitch, Mr Napier said he would not disclose any plans.

Mr Napier added: “There should be no business as usual for Israel’s national teams while Israel denies Palestinians the same privileges.

“Common decency dictates that while Israel continues to jail Palestinian national players at will – without charge or trial – Israel’s national teams should be protested at wherever they go.”

A spokesman for Hearts said: “We have been in regular dialogue with the authorities and we are comfortable with the security arrangements that are in place.”