By Alec McQuarrie
When Abdul Bostani formed a five-a-side football team with fellow refugees and asylum seekers in 2004, he had no idea it would grow into an international organisation supporting thousands of society’s most vulnerable.
Glasgow Afghan United (GAU) provides a vital service to those who arrive in Scotland in need of refugee protection without English language skills, information, or links to the community, like Bostani did in 2001.
Now Managing Director of GAU and Councillor for Maryhill, Bostani has been recognised for his unwavering dedication to become part of a campaign championing the individuals and projects who support refugees, with the help of National Lottery funding and players, who raise £30 million for good causes every week.
To celebrate his incredible achievements, artist Yoniest Chun, known for his cartoon-inspired work, has created a digital piece of art that immortalises Bostani’s story.
GAU received over £114,000 of National Lottery funding just as 5,000 Afghani refugees were being resettled in Scotland in November 2021, and Bostani says the finance couldn’t have come at a better time.
“The National Lottery funding is a lifeline,” he said . “It was outstanding for us. It was support where our organisation needed it the most and it came at the right time.
“That’s how we will be providing support to a lot of people. New families and women are all benefiting from this right now.
“God knows without this funding where we would be. It makes a massive, massive difference in the community.”
When Bostani fled the conflict in his home country at the start of the millennium, football was a natural way to connect with other New Scots but there was little else in the way of support.
“If I said nothing, I wouldn’t be exaggerating,” said Bostani. “The only support at that point was that you could go to college. Community support on a community level? Nothing.
“We had a lot of difficulties when I first arrived here. But organisations like Glasgow Afghan United have made a lot of work to break all those barriers.
“Now we have a hub, we have an office, we have social media, we have a website that can provide people information.
Chris Tarrant has helped us to unveil the first installation in our ‘People’s Portraits’ series at the Royal Albert Dock. It’s part of our UK-wide campaign celebrating the impact #NationalLottery funding has had around the country since it began 28 years ago. 🥳#ThanksToYou  pic.twitter.com/F0IUOhLE6K
— National Lottery Good Causes (@LottoGoodCauses) October 26, 2022
“We never thought it would grow into what it’s become. We moved on, we expanded, and we are supporting thousands of people now.
“We were operating at a local level, then at a Glasgow level, then at a Scotland level and now we even operate internationally. This achievement happened because of hard work and dedicated volunteers.
“We really believe in supporting vulnerable people in our society and our support has made a clear difference. We see that and we’re proud of that.”
And now, with the Taliban regaining control over Afghanistan in 2021, charities like GAU are needed more than ever. “We’re very concerned about Afghanistan because at the end of the day, it’s our home. We have families in Afghanistan, and we have a brutal terrorist government ruling there,” said Bostani.
“Minorities don’t have any rights at all. Women don’t have any rights at all. They’re not allowed to go to university, and they’re not allowed to go to work.
“That hurts me a lot. I feel very sorry for the people of Afghanistan.”
Three additional digital portraits have been created by artist Yoniest Chun, depicting the stories of other individuals and projects who have achieved incredible things for their communities and peers in supporting refugees as part of The National Lottery’s Peoples’ Portraits series. Also honoured with a portrait is Mary Lafferty from Omagh Community House, Vladyslava Zhmuro from the Welsh Refugee Council and Mariia Lata from Yellowscarf in Evesham, Worcestershire.