Hand in hand – Celtic, ‘Created by Immigrants’ and United Glasgow FC, ‘Refugees Welcome’

“A football club will be formed for the maintenance of dinner tables for the children.” When Celtic was formed we all know it started with charitable intent. It’s something the club continues with today through the Celtic Foundation. The annual Christmas appeal for this is now well under way.

Within Glasgow lies another football club very much akin to those origins of Celtic.

It’s a charitable organisation that I only became aware of recently. This charity is called United Glasgow FC. Some of you will no doubt be aware of the amazing work they do, many more won’t be. Today on The Celtic Star I want to look into what they do and what they are all about.

Celtic supporters – Thousands are Sailing, Refugees Welcome!

The landscape around immigration is now very different from Celtic’s beginnings but the core issues remain. Celtic supporters never forget that ours is a club founded by and supported by immigrants, something that the Green Brigade recognised in their recent Appeal which raised over their £15,000 target for a fundraiser designed to promote “tolerance and inclusion but provide much needed practical support to the below two charities with projects in Rome and Glasgow.”

These two charities were Baobab Experience in Rome and Scottish Action for Refugees in Glasgow. The Green Brigade so far have raised £15,466 for these two charities. Here is a little about each of them and what they do.

A Celtic banner says ‘Refugees Welcome’ and acknowledges that our club was ‘Created by Immigrants’

Since 2015, Baobab Experience have supported more than 85,000 asylum seekers in Rome. They offer food, clothing and accommodation services to ensure that people’s most basic needs are fulfilled. They also provide legal assistance and physical and mental healthcare.

Scottish Action for Refugees is a charity that supports refugees in Scotland as well as coordinates international efforts. Specifically in Glasgow, they have created a SAFR Space which is a community hub offering help and support for refugees and asylum seekers with the practical aspects of setting up a new life in a strange country.

UNITED GLASGOW FC

So getting back to United Glasgow FC which was formed in 2011. Its aim was to help refugees and asylum seekers integrate into living in Glasgow. Starting with the motto of ‘Unity in the Community’ you can immediately tell it’s a charity looking to help those arriving in the City assimilate into their surroundings. It was set up for refugees and asylum seekers with the intention of providing free access to football equipment, pitches and all the support refugees would need to help settle in Glasgow.

Today the club boasts three competitive teams and four community drop-in sessions each week that help support more than 200 players of all genders, sexual orientations, religions, ethnicities, socio-economic positions and immigration statuses.

I’ll let them explain in their own words just what they are all about.

“Our two guiding principles when we started our project were anti-discrimination and financial inclusion. By keeping our costs to an absolute minimum and not charging players for games or training where we can we manage to bring together individuals from communities who would otherwise probably never have met through a shared love of football”.

The badge on their shirts and website states proudly ‘Refugees Welcome’. Welcoming is a thread that runs through United Glasgow. For this organisation it is clear football is not about winning games its people from 40 different nationalities having the opportunity to interact with each other when their languages won’t always allow the clearest communication. The language of football is what brings everyone together and it also makes them stand out.

Researchers from Oxford University’s Refugee Studies Centre said:

“…the team provides an international social space in which participants feel “at home” because of the team’s diversity.

“It is a space in which participants can forget their problems, allowing them to step outside identities based on their nationality and immigration status to interact equally as footballers. The result is that teammates find common ground on the pitch that serves them in their life off the pitch.

“This suggests a process which transforms both the Scottish “hosts” as well as the “newcomers”, rather than one in which immigrants learn to “fit in” to a host society.”

The Club are clearly trying to create an inclusive and accepting environment for all, that’s what is immediate. They are building a place where both the Scots and the refugees can learn from each other. The past of the person is not important to the club they don’t ask about it and it’s not just asylum seekers or refugees that sign up with United Glasgow. The club itself is proud of its support for ethnic minorities and the LGBT community also.

The club allows an escape and a purpose. It tries to create a warm and welcoming environment to help sustain and develop people’s lives arriving in Glasgow. From there they support the refugees and asylum seekers to carry on that journey as the huge task of settling into and impacting themselves on, a new culture begins.

The message being portrayed has clearly resonated as they are growing in popularity. They have a website and nearly 9000 people follow them on Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram they even have their own T-Shirts and other merchandise to help raise funds. Fundraising functions have already attracted hundreds of supporters.

As such United Glasgow very much rely on volunteers and players from Glasgow and across the rest of the country and of course money is always a problem.

A project such as United Glasgow Football Club has been heavily reliant on funding from direct funders, charities, football supporters and individuals to keep going.

United Glasgow remains an organisation run by ordinary Glasgow people for everyone in the City. It is run entirely by volunteers and as such any help is greatly appreciated. We have included the link below to their website. They have details on how you can get involved or donate on the site. Just follow the link.

https://unitedglasgowfc.org.uk/

Their website also has a lot of information on United Glasgow including this short video that gives you an idea what they are all about and about the amazing work they do.

I’m sure you’d agree there is an ethos within United Glasgow FC that very much marries with the origins of Celtic Football Club.

A message Brother Walfrid would have supported

The Celtic Star hopes to keep you up to date with what is going on at United Glasgow. We’ll keep you all posted as to how that progresses.

In the meantime please take a look at what they do, I’m sure you’ll be as impressed as I was. And if you are in the Glasgow area and have an old pair of football boots you no longer require why not hand them in to one of the two outlets listed below?

Niall J

About Author

As a Bellshill Bhoy I was taken to my first Celtic game in the summer of 1987. It was Billy McNeill’s return to Celtic Park as manager and Celtic lost 5-1 to Arsenal . I thought I was a jinx, I think my Grandfather might have thought the same. It was finest gift anyone ever gave me when he walked me through Parhead's gates.

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