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A-League club the Wellington Phoenix have jumped to the defence of one of their players following his 'controversial' pro-Israel goal celebrations.
Phoenix striker and Israeli international Tomer Hemed celebrated his brace against Melbourne City over the weekend by pulling out a traditional kippah from under his shirt and wearing it before draping himself in an Israel flag.
The celebrations come during a time of heavy conflict and rising tensions between Israel and Palestine.
It's understood the A-League's match review panel will launch an investigation into the incident, although Wellington have since come out and defended their front man.
"We respect people's rights for their expressions but at the same time we have to be very sensitive to what is going on in the Middle East and the human tragedy that is happening there," Phoenix general manager David Dome said.
"We've already spoken to Tomer about that and over the next couple of days we will look into it in more detail and come up with a response about how we're going to handle it on the day as well.
"I don't expect a punishment but I think we will get a 'please explain from the league'."
At the time of the celebrations, Hemed was issued a yellow card by the referee, but it remains to be seen whether further punishment will be handed down by the A-League's independent review committee.
"I know for a fact that when he does that celebration he's praying for peace," Dome added.
"He doesn't see it as an insensitive celebration at all.
"He's proud of his country and as an Israeli abroad he's trying to express solidarity with his country, but I also think we have to look at the flip side of it as well and there's a very real human tragedy that's going on in that part of the world and we have to be sensitive to both sides.
"In a secular society like New Zealand we have to be seen doing the right thing and have to do the right thing, and I think we'll look into it in more detail this week."
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