Phoenix boss says club has 'spoken' to Hemed about celebrations, not expecting punishments

Source: 1News

The Wellington Phoenix have spoken to Israeli striker Tomer Hemed about his controversial goal celebrations from last night, saying the club needs to be "sensitive" to both sides of the Gaza conflict.

Hemed made headlines after appearing to make political statements while celebrating his two goals in last night's 2-2 draw with Melbourne City, first draping himself in an Israel flag after a penalty before pulling out a Jewish kippah from inside his shirt following a late equaliser.

Hemed also said in a social media post afterwards he was dedicating his man-of-the-match performance to his home country.

It comes as Israel and Palestine are currently tied up in a violent conflict in Gaza which has killed over 140 people so far.

After arriving back in Wellington from the team's lengthy stay in Australia this afternoon, general manager David Dome told media the club had spoken to Hemed about the celebrations.

"It's difficult, in New Zealand we are a very secular society so it's hard to put those things into context," Dome said.

"Football is a very diverse sport - we have players from all around the world representing the Phoenix and we're very proud of the fact that we are a very inclusive football club.

"So for us, that sort of thing is something we have to look at and how we're going to handle it - I think we're going to have to take some steps at the weekend to ensure that the stadium is going to be safe for everybody.

"We're going to look at all of that and see how we respond."

Dome added he knew Hemed's celebration was about peace.

"I know for a fact when he does that celebration he's praying for peace," Dome said.

"He doesn't see it as an insensitve celebration at all."

It's expected A-League officials will look into the matter as well although Dome said he expects them not to punish Hemed for the celebrations. A "please explain" was the more-likely request to come to be issued.

He added the Phoenix respect people's rights to express themselves but they also have to be "very sensitive" to situations such as the Gaza conflict.

"The thing is with Tomer he is proud of his nation, he's proud of his country so as an Israeli abroad he's trying to express his solidarity with his country.

"But I also think we have to look at the flipside as well in that there is a real human tragedy going on in that part of the world and we have to be sensitive to both sides."

The Phoenix play rivals Western United this Saturday at 4pm in what will be their first home match in over a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.