CD Palestino – A Football Club Founded By Palestinian Refugees in Chile

Many wars, like World War II and the Arab-Israeli wars, have resulted directly and indirectly in a lot of Palestinian refugees. Most of these refugees fled to countries near Palestine, like Jordan and Syria. However, ca. 500.000 Palestinians fled to Santiago, the capital of the South-American country Chile. The main reason was obviously to allow themselves to have a better live. Now, Chile has one of the largest Palestinian populations outside Palestine.

The members of the Palestinian community in Chile grew rapidly. That has led to the idea of starting a football team in 1920. They eventually came up with Club Deportivo Palestino, referring to their background with a little Chilean touch by the ‘o’ at the end.

The most remarkable fact about CD Palestino is that it is the only club in the world that is founded by refugees. The double Chilean champions are very loved in Chile and are always welcomed friendly by the rivals in the Chilean competition. They can count on a lot of sympathy in Chile. From radio-commentators to former Palestino players, everyone has a good word to say about the club. Even the opponents praise the club and its fans. Most of the Chileans love the club and love the Palestinian community even more. No one can deny the effort of the Chilean-Palestinians in society.

You can consider Palestino more than just a club. It is a true form of identification and pride for a part the population who have been living in fear and uncertainty for decades. Almost every Palestinian tries to find a way to watch the games. After 34 years, Palestino succeeded to enter the group stage of the Copa Libertadores, the South-American variant of the Champions League.

Palestinian Symbol

After the successes and entering the group stage of the Copa Libertadores, the board decided to do something spectacular. The number 1 on the kit was depicted in the form of the Palestinian map before the United Nations resolution of November 20 1947 that acknowledges a Jewish state and an Arab state. This led to much controversy and Palestino had to pay a fine of $1,300 and was forced to change the kit numbers, because the rules of the FIFA say that it is not allowed for a football club or player to make a political statement.

The colors of the jerseys were an issue too. They show a lot of similarities with the flag of Palestine. Eventually there were not enough evidences to claim that CD Palestino violated those rules of FIFA , considering the fact that a club can choose any colour they want. A good comparison is the away kit of the Catalan club FC Barcelona in the season 2015-2016, where the kit was dominated by the yellow-red stripes of the Catalan flag.

The club accepted the fine and eventually changed the numbers, but made a great statement on their facebook page saying they stand behind a free Palestine. So an answer to a possible question: does Palestino support Palestine? Yes it does!