A football team is training in Crawley, West Sussex, 48 kilometers south of London. Most of the players live there – they all have a common goal: to eventually return to their homeland – the Chacos Islands. The archipelago forms the last remnant of British overseas territory in the Indian Ocean – nearly 9500 kilometers from Crawley. No player from the Chagos Archipelago national team has ever set foot on the islands.
This is due to the tragic history of the players’ parents and grandparents. Between 1968 and 1973, nearly 2,000 islanders were forcibly relocated by the United Kingdom – to Mauritius, Seychelles and Great Britain. After that, the largest of the seven atolls, Diego Garcia Island, served as a US military base. Great Britain leased the island to the United States until 2036.
Chacos Center Crawley
Since then, only a few Chagossians have been able to visit their ancestral island. Like 2011 Sabrina Jean. Born in Mauritius, he moved to Crawley in 2006 to become head of the Chacos Refugee Group in England. Around 3000 Chagossians live in Crawley, making it the largest Chagossian community in Britain. “When we came from Mauritius, most of our families were already in Crawley,” he explains.
In 2004, according to Jean, members of the Sakosian community began forming soccer teams in England. Later in 2013, Jean founded the Tsagos Football Association (CFA). An immediate request came from CONIFA (Confederation of Independent Football Associations) for the Chacos Islands to participate in the 2016 World Cup. Jean agreed.
Last Place in Alternate World Cup
CONIFA brings together football associations and ethnic minorities from non-recognised states and non-FIFA member countries. From Western Sahara to Western Armenia to Cornwall or the County of Nice, CONIFA is home to associations that provide a platform and competition. The World Championship is held every two years.
In 2016, the Chacos Islands debuted. After significant defeats against Western Armenia (0:12) and Abkhazia (0:9, an autonomous region within Georgia under Russian protection), the team was eliminated from the bottom of the group in the initial round. Tsagos finished last after failing to make it through the placement rounds.
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