Celtic Has Done Right By Liel Abada. He Must Now Repay That Support And Trust.

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Last week, I wrote about Liel Abada and how it was Celtic who would decide what became of him and where his future would ultimately lie.

We aren’t going to simply jettison a player because we’re being pushed in that direction, no matter where it comes from. We have to maintain our strength in the face of some of the most scandalous pressure ever brought to bear on us and on one of our players.

I hoped Liel Abada himself would be up to it.

Now, I cannot blame him if he’s feeling it. I cannot hold it against a kid his age if he’s simply not coping well with the awesome weight on his shoulders.

But the club has done all that it can for him, even now allowing him a leave of absence. When that leave is over, we are entitled to his best. We are entitled to feel that having supported and trusted him, that having given him our backing, that we are now entitled to the same.

Put frankly, Liel Abada owes us a debt and if he wants to be remembered here for something other than the soap opera that’s unfolding, he will have to find it in himself to play through the pressure. My sympathy for him does not need to be re-stated.

I completely understand his position. But we need our best footballers on the pitch. We’re in a title race here which has huge implications for this club in the short to medium term. It’s all hands-on deck.

Obviously at a time like this you do want to be understanding and considerate towards what someone else is going through. But let’s be honest here; Abada isn’t the first player to be playing in a faraway land when his people are at war.

Ukrainian players have been living with that reality for two years now.

There are African players all over the continent whose nations have been going through trauma and turmoil for even longer than that.

Furthermore, although Israel was the victim of a shocking act of terrorism on 7 October, they are the aggressors now, blitzing their way through Gaza and ratcheting up an ever-increasing body count.

He may have friends and family in the armed forces, I don’t know, but since they are in body armour and driving tanks or dropping bombs from planes the worst most of them might one day face is a place in the International Criminal Court for war crimes.

So, I find the idea that he needs coddling to be a little absurd.

Where are the boos around the grounds of Scotland whenever he’s on the ball? They don’t come from Celtic fans, that’s for sure, and I’ve not heard them from other supporters either.

You want to know who carries a heavy burden because of where he’s from and what he represents? James McClean, who has been playing through abuse from every quarter – the media, rival supporters, rival players and even some of us his own fans – for more than a decade; he simply shuts it off and gets on with his job playing football.

We cannot ask everyone to be like James McClean – it takes a special kind of fortitude and courage to do what he does – but the least we can expect from players is that they can knuckle down when the going gets tough. Every player gets stick from the stands. Not every player collapses in a heap because they disagree with what’s on a banner, and although said banner was repellent it does not reflect the views or values of the vast majority of our supporters.

If Abada finds Celtic to be an uncomfortable place to be I would suggest he’s allowing the views of a handful of nutjobs to influence his outlook, nutjobs not only in our stands but in the right-wing community in his country at home.

But if I were him, I wouldn’t think that getting out of Celtic is necessarily going to fix that; in case he’s not twigged yet, his country was recently in the International Court accused of “acts of genocide”, so Israel is not the most popular nation on the planet right now, and if he quits Celtic because our fans are pro-Palestinian, he’s in for a shock when he sees how many supporters across Europe are.

A friend of mine suggested that we could have sold him to a team in Turkey, as their window was last to close; that would have been interesting, since their country is the first (and so far only) nation to actually arrest an Israeli footballer for a “hate crime” because he publicly supported the Gaza offensive.

Their government has made their disgust a matter of the public record and the handful of Israeli players there are not finding life particularly easy.

They aren’t finding life particularly easy anywhere.

It’s not just the stands which are filled with pro-Palestinian sentiment.

The dressing rooms of Europe are too, and if the Israeli lobby which is banging the drum for him to get out of this club succeeds, they are sending him out there as a poster boy for their politics, and that’s not going to do him the least bit of good.

Abada needs to get his head screwed on and starting making a contribution to the club again. There’s nothing else for it, and suggestions from the likes of Michael Gannon that we should be willing to cut our losses and accept a modest transfer fee in the summer are patently ridiculous.

Gannon’s entire piece, actually, deserves special contempt.

“This is a young lad in a foreign country, while his homeland is involved in an horrific conflict,” he wrote today in The Record. “And when this kid goes to his work, there are people there with flags of the nation who are at war with his.”

Perhaps Gannon hasn’t noticed, but the Palestinians aren’t the ones waging war. When Abada goes to work, as he puts it, there are people in the stands with flags representing the country some in Israeli, including at the senior levels of government, want to wipe off the map.

This is not a war. It never has been. It is a one-sided slaughter.

It is what we gamers call a “curb stomp battle”, with the side with all the high-tech weaponry indiscriminately massacring the other. Gannon’s comments are not just intellectually dishonest they are grotesquely offensive.

And if that’s how Abada sees this then he needs to go and watch some of the footage of Palestinian kids being dug out of the rubble. If someone can show me the corresponding scenes in Tel Aviv then I might be inclined to agree with Gannon’s risible contention.

“Abada’s big pal Nir Bitton departed a while ago and the former hero – who gave nine years of trophy laden service to the club – ended up getting abused on social media by the same fans who used to love him,” he writes. Which again, is a gross distortion of the facts.

Bitton made the calamitous mistake of attacking our whole club for the actions of a handful of fans, which simply was not on and is what led directly to the attacks on him.

This blog also pointed out the hypocrisy of Bitton’s position as he’s now at a team with one of the most openly discriminatory and racist supports in the whole of Europe. Their abuse of Arab footballers included driving a couple out of their own club.

Abada, whatever anyone might allege, is certainly not being pushed out of Celtic.

Gannon’s entire piece is a mind-bending series of atrocious statements; “Abada is under enough pressure from his homeland and must have felt he can’t be seen to be pandering or playing along with the people who have voiced such loud support for the state who attacked his own.”

The “state” of Palestine did no such thing.

Gannon can hardly write about football in complete sentences, so he ought to have steered well clear of geopolitics, where his colossal ignorance is breathtakingly on display here … he’s just one of a number of our idiotic hacks who without possessing the least knowledge of what they are talking about has attempted to navigate this minefield and only shown off their own stupidity.

The simple fact is that if Abada’s head has been turned it’s because he has allowed it to be. Celtic is not a racist club. We are not an anti-semitic club. If he has been convinced that we are then he is more pliable than I at first believed him to be.

It is not just false, it is a lie.

The Celtic fans have not turned on him. They have embraced him and taken his struggles to heart. We have been supportive, and the suggestion that we’ve done anything else is objectionable. The club itself has bent over backwards to give him all the support it can.

I understand the position he is in, but if he allows himself to be influenced by the views of hard line elements back home who, in my view, are simply using him as a pawn in a much bigger game then that’s his lookout.

But none of us should have to, or be willing, to see Celtic branded an intolerant club or our fan-base as a whole being painted in this ghastly light.

It bears no resemblance to reality and if Abada is daft enough to mistake it as such then he needs a swift re-education. In the meantime, he’s part of our squad and we are entitled to expect that when he’s back at work he puts in a shift.

His position is not unique. Players from hot-spots all over the world know how it feels to be playing whilst war is raging back home.

If Abada feels under pressure it is up to him to resist that and to give back to Celtic what this club has given him. A little bit of loyalty, and a commitment to do his best.

And I hope we get that.

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  • Clachnacuddin and the Hoops says:

    I wouldn’t have the faintest idea if football players read the papers or not…

    But if they should do then a young fella like Liel potentially could be influenced by morons like that crayon writer masquerading as a journalist –

    Also to add to the paragraph “nutjobs not only in our stands, but in the right wing community of his country back home” –

    Well all I can say is there is a right wing community far nearer to Liel in his current home of Scotland…

    Sevco Huns – And Scottish rag ‘news’(lies) papers !

  • Paddybhoy67 says:

    Great analysis James, but, I think it best for all if he moves on as soon as possible.

  • John says:

    Your piece lacks balance . The Palestinian people are deliberately being used as a shield.
    Hamas are still engaged in this conflict , firing rockets into Israel and holding 134 Israeli hostages . How would you react if the current conflict stopped and then Hamas repeated 7th OCTOBER which is their stated aim ?

    • Eldraco says:

      Are you off ur head, as i write the bombing has begun in north rafa,67 dead said location was where the criminal netanyatu snd gallant TOLD the CIVILIANS to cram into as it was the on safe place in Gaza now they are bombing . Like shooting fish in a barrel.

    • Paul T says:

      You do understand that, as abhorrent as that attack was on October 7th, this wasn’t the first attack ever in that region? The Israelis have been perpetrating attacks on the Palestinians for 70 years. During that time they’ve deployed an apartheid state, keeping the Palestinians in gaza imprisoned, turning on and off essential supplies there. Hamas are not in the West Bank, the Israelis behaviours there are just as bad. What we’re watching here, no matter how you dress it up is genocide, and some of the western democracies are complicit in that. We should all be calling this slaughter out!

  • Dan says:

    Good piece James. I think he is being influenced by people back home and I think he may want out. I certainly don’t think we will see him at his best again but hope I’m wrong

  • Effarr says:

    Is this how he repays Celtic after giving him time off to celebrate a Jewish festival? Why don’t the papers mention that? Considering his tattoos, can you imagine De Silva getting time off for the 8th of December, or James McClean getting leave to celebrate St Patrick’ day? He should learn as to which side his bread is buttered. By the way: an excellent article.

  • Bigchunkylardass says:

    And maybe we could dial back the support for, well, yi know, the people who beheaded babies as well as raping, mutilating and murdering women in his homeland of Israel….
    Just an inconvenient thought, I know.

    • Eldraco says:

      No one sane is supporting that ! Evetyone sane is condeming isreal for killing , no ,murdering civilians, kids , babes, women, men, children who wont ever finish education. Get fuckin real and see this for what it is those folks in the gaza can trace back generations BEFORE the balfour.

      What would you do if England decided they needed the space and wanted you gone herded up to the isles bombing you as you went? . Would you go willingly or cry foul and fight.

  • Timbilly says:

    Liel Abada is finished at CP.
    He doesn’t have the mindset,willingness or wherewithal to see your point of view.
    His game time this season(little as was) turned out to be abysmal. An empty jersey in fact.
    The ball boys were more involved in the games
    than Abada was.
    He just doesn’t understand or doesn’t want to understand that it’s only a handful of morons
    who are waving the flags.
    Apparently his moral scruples don’t apply when his monthly pay cheques are paid into his bank account as he does hee haw to earn them.

  • Jimmy says:

    Great article reflecting a young man’s troubles of heart and mind. Lot of horrendous acts with extremist people on both sides at the root of it. Terribly sad.

  • Robbie says:

    The Hamas-Israeli conflict has been painful for many of us around the globe. I can’t begin to imagine what Liel is going through, and I hope his family and friends back home in Israel are safe. James, my concern about such passionate support for the Palestinian cause within the Celtic support is that there are times where it lacks nuance. I know for many Celtic supporters they empathize with the Palestinian cause because there are similarities to what our own family and friends went through not just in the West of Scotland, but also across the Irish Sea. My Irish Catholic ancestors emigrated from County Antrim during the Great Famine and after spending a bit of time living in the Gorbals immigrated to the U.S. It’s those ties to why I chose to be a Celtic supporter, and I love this club. However, I think there are times where some within our support see this conflict too much through the lens of our own experiences or political affiliations. Just the other day I was listening to Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Fein speak on the conflict, and it does seem that for many who proudly identify as Irish, I find misunderstandings of both Zionism, Judaism, and also the tendency to either ignore or diminish the great elephant in the room: Hamas. Let’s not forget that the ultimate goal for both the PIRA and Sinn Fein was for unity of all 32 counties on the island of Ireland. There was never intent to then go to Great Britain and incorporate England, Scotland, and Wales into an Irish state. Based on all that I’ve read and watched, Hamas does not seem content with simply establishing a Palestinian state. Their government and military wings do not believe Israel should have a right to exist and the example of October 7th illustrates that. The fact always seems to get missed within our support, and while I’m all for supporting the Palestinian people, the fact is that until the Knesset or whoever is governing the West Bank and Gaza want to share the land and create two states, we will never end this conflict. But it goes both ways which is why I’m very much in the middle when it comes to Israel and Palestine. This war is not as straight forward as others like Ukraine and Russia, and I grow weary of the constant criticism of the Israeli government within our support and the tendency to ignore Hamas and their role within the plight of the Palestinians and their brutality which will never bring a democratic Palestinian state to the Middle East.

    • Michael McCartney says:

      Robbie, Jewish settlers have been stealing Palestinian land for over 70 years and now want to incorporate the little land the Palestinians have left into the Israeli State.
      The Hamas Government only came to power in the past 20 years as a reaction to 50 years of persecution and land grabbing by Jewish settlers from all over the World. When you dehumanise a people you will eventually get an extreme reaction and that is what Oct 7th was.
      What is going on in Gaza just now is revenge and ethnic cleansing by the extreme religious fundamentalist Israeli government of Netanyahu.
      God help the good people of Palestine and Israel, may cool heads come to the fore and a two state solution is eventually found.
      A really good and fair article from James,

  • Bob (original) says:

    The club has to seriously reconsider its transfer target markets:

    a player from any other country has to be a good fit for the club

    and its ethos, values?

    As ever, the club is bigger than any player.

  • Jamie D says:

    Quite a sensible argument from James, however, Abada should not have to see those flags being waved at Celtic Park. The idiots that wave them on a regular basis are in the wrong. They have all week to make their feelings known about the conflict and many forums to voice their opinion. Keep politics out of Celtic Park and just concentrate on supporting the team in this challenging season. H H

  • Davie says:

    While a section of our idiot kid on fans keep waving Palestine flags, Abada will be affected by those idiots.
    THIS IS CELTIC, support the team, we are not some political group.
    I don’t want to get involved in anything political at what should be an entertaining game.
    Football flags, Football singing, just football is what I want.
    Say what you want about The board & Hangers on whilst the players are not in ear shot.
    Support the team before they enter the pitch until they have left the pitch.

    We need more noise chanting the team and individuals if they are struggling.
    Celtic park has become as quiet as a graveyard.
    Sadly ibrox are making a lot more noise than us.
    C’mon The Bhoys.
    Hail Hail.

  • Johnny Green says:

    When all is said and done, there is only one outcome here, he has got to go. His head is messed up, got to be, I know mine would be under the same circumstances, and he is never going to fully be at ease with the Celtic fans. He owes us nothing, let him go and have peace of mind elsewhere, a troubled player is not something we can do anything about. I’m sorry for him, but he has to move on with our best wishes.

  • Nigel Grant says:

    An excellent article well written. Thank you

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