By: Ishita Goel
December 13 2022
The original image of the England fan is from a UEFA Euro match in 2016. The photo has been edited, and shared falsely with a pro-Palestine tattoo.
Ever since FIFA World Cup 2022 kicked off in Qatar, the tournament has been at the center of various false and misleading narratives. Recently, a photo of a shirtless fan at a stadium with a tattoo on his belly saying, "More importantly, free Palestine" has gone viral on social media. A Facebook user posted the photo with a caption, "ITS COMING HOME, ITS COMING!!! MORE IMPORTANTLY FREE PALESTINE" - England fan tells a colonial Israeli reporter," and added hashtags "#worldcup #qatar #FifaWorldcup2022Qatar #football #FreePalestine #london #itscominghome #england #Palestine."
On conducting a reverse image search, we were able to trace the image back to 2016. Photo hosting platform Getty Images had published this image by photographer Julian Finney on June 20. The photo was titled "Slovakia v England - Group B: UEF Euro 2016." The caption stated that England fans showed their support prior to the UEFA EURO 2016 Group B match between Slovakia and England at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard stadium. However, the original image shows no tattoo on the fan's belly.
England's match against Slovakia in the UEFA European Champianship 2016 ended in a draw, and England later lost to Iceland on June 28, dashing the hopes of their fans. Several news reports had used the original image to write about England’s performance. On June 29, Evening Standard had used the image for a report headlined "Euro 2016: Watching your football team lose 'could prove fatal.'” The article spoke about how a leading doctors observed “an increase in cases of angina and heart attacks associated with watching footbal—and especially with defeat.” On June 25, Spanish daily El Pais had published an article with the title (originally written in Spanish) "England, ‘hooligan’ country." The report included the viral image captioned "Fan of the English team, during a Eurocup soccer match in France."
According to a report by The Guardian, FIFA had negotiated with Qatar to permit Israelis and Palestinians to attend 2022 FIFA World Cup on special shared flights from Tel Aviv. The report noted that two weeks into the tournament, it was unclear how many Palestinians made the journey from Tel Aviv, and that many had come via Egypt and Jordon. While neither Israel nor Palestine participated in the biggest football tournament, many encounters between journalists from the two countries and fans from all over the world have gone viral on social media.
On December 5, NDTV reported on a viral video in which at least three England fans were captured shouting "Free Palestine" on a live telecast by an Israeli channel at the FIFA World Cup. This was after England's victory over Senegal when the England fans were being interviewed. When an Israeli journalist questioned whether France would still lift the Cup, a fan answered that England could easily defeat France before yelling, "but most importantly, free Palestine."
Associated Press (AP) reported that Palestinians had shared clips and footage of Israeli journalists being confronted by Qataris and Palestinians in another video. According to the report, Israeli journalists have alleged that they have also been heckled during live reporting. AP added, "Palestinian fans who made the long journey said they felt their attendance at the world's biggest sporting event served a political purpose."
Football fans from various countries have routinely been spotted raising Palestinian flags during the tournament. The Guardian reported that before the opening match on November 20, a group of Qatari men were seen holding a Palestinian flag and chanting "Everyone is welcome" while walking into the Al Bayt Stadium. The report added, "Fans from Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, and Algeria have also carried Palestinian flags prominently at matches and worn them as capes around their necks. Even members of the Moroccan national team, which is the first African team ever to reach the semi-finals in the tournament, have raised the Palestinian flag on two occasions after winning a match, the CNN reported.
Although an England fan did yell, "More importantly, free Palestine," during an interview to an Israeli reporter conducted after a World Cup 2022 match, an old image from 2016 has been edited to connect two different events. The interview by an Israeli journalist and the statements by the England fan have no connection with the viral image. The original image is of an England fan attending a UEFA European Championship match in 2016. Therefore, we have marked the claim false.