In the past two years Chagos Islands have played in international friendly matches against Somaliland, Sealand, Panjab and Tamil Eelam.
SCORING the winning goal for your country in a World Cup final is a dream acted out in gardens, parks and beaches across the globe.
But for a group of talented players from Crawley it could become a reality next summer.
Ranked 16th in the world in an alternative system for territories not recognized by FIFA, The Chagos Islands won’t be taking on the likes of Brazil and Spain when they play in the Confederations of Independent Football Associations (ConIFA) World Cup 2016.
They will be facing far less familiar national teams like Aymara – an indigenous nation in the Andes and Altiplano regions of South America.
They will be competing against 11 other states in total and could even face Italian international Mario Balotelli’s brother who represents Padania, an area in the north of Italy. Yet the Chagossian players are confident.
Ricardo Louis, who plays on the left of midfield, said: “I’ve been part of the team for the last five months and this is a very strong squad of players.
“We have good skillful young players, some who have played for the Three Bridges academy and even Crystal Palace’s youth teams. This team is so motivated. On the day of matches or training there are players texting at 9am making sure everyone is prepared.
“They will give anything to win for the Chagos Islands.”
Mr Louis, 35, who was on Tottenham Hotspur’s books as a youngster, added he is confident the team will surprise opponents at their first international tournament.
The squad is predominately made up of players living in Crawley, with home matches held at Hazelwick School and regular training sessions in Bewbush.
Team captain Mariot Nanon, 35, from Tollgate Hill in Broadfield said: “We will take this tournament seriously and our preparation now has to focus on everyone training well plus keeping our fitness. It is not easy because we all work long hours and different shifts but it is important that we stick together to represent the Chagos Islands.”
While Aymara were invited to play in the tournament, all other teams were initially required to qualify by taking part in “friendly” tournaments with the winners securing their place.
But although they lost out in the Benedikt Fontana Cup to Raetia, an imperial province of the old Roman empire, the Chagossians wrote to ConIFA to explain why they wanted to take part, and were accepted.
The ConIFA World Cup 2016, the second to be held after it debuted in 2014, will take place next June in Abkhazia, a partially recognized state controlled by a separatist government on the eastern coast of the Black Sea.
Crawley is home to the world’s largest Chagossian community – more than 3,000 people.
The Chagos Islands team was formed in 2003 and after a short break reformed in 2013.
In the past two years they have played at Crawley Town’s ground and in international friendly matches against Sealand, Somaliland, Panjab and Tamil Eelam.
Despite having their place confirmed at next year’s tournament the team still need to raise £7,000 to cover travel costs for 23 people, hire practice pitches and buy first-aid kits. They also need somewhere to train regularly.
Sabrina Jean, of Burney Court, Bewbush, who helped to reform the team, said: “Representing the Chagos Islands is a great way for young Chagossians, born in exile, to connect with their heritage.”
If you would like to donate go to www.chagosrefugeesgroup.org
To sponsor the team or offer them a place to train, email Mrs Jean at email@example.com
Source: Crawley News
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