Cedric Joseph, the goalie for the Chagos Islands national team, frequently wears his football shirt while he is in his hometown of Crawley, which is located in West Sussex, regardless of whether or not there is a match scheduled for that day.
“I wear the shirt all the time, even when I’m not heading to the gym. “I take pride in it,” he says.
When it happens, people ask me questions. There are some folks who have no idea what the location is like. Because I am familiar with the past, I can share it with them.
I tell them that it’s a tropical island paradise and a piece of heaven right here on earth.
Joseph, who is only 19, has never even visited the region that he is supposed to represent.
When he was a child living in Mauritius, he begged his grandmother to tell him stories about her native country, but she would frequently avoid answering him.
The Chagos Islands are an archipelago located in the Indian Ocean, and Joseph’s grandmother was born there. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the whole local population was relocated in order to create room for a military airbase that was co-managed by the United States and the United Kingdom.
Many of the Chagossians who were forced out of their homes were relocated to Mauritius, which is also the island where Joseph was born. But his grandmother’s heart was always in her own land, and the anguish she felt as a result of being uprooted by the British persisted throughout her life.
This is the story of a football squad that is fighting to preserve the history of their ancestors alive while also representing a lost nation that is approximately 9,000 kilometres distant.
Crawley, where the vast majority of the United Kingdom’s 3,000-strong Chagossian population resides, was the location where the first Chagos Islands squad was created some twenty years ago. The team became a member of the NF-Board, which is an international organisation for national football teams that are not permitted to join Fifa.
The Chagos Islands Football Club competed in a regional league for a while, in addition to engaging in friendly matches against teams such as Raetia (a province of the Roman Empire located in central Europe) and Sealand on occasion (an unrecognised micronation that claims an offshore platform off the coast of Suffolk). However, they were unable to overcome their ongoing financial challenges and eventually went out of business.
The island of Peros Banhos was where Jean’s father spent his childhood. He went for Mauritius when he was 17 years old, but he always intended to go back to his home country. He was never given the opportunity. Jean spent her childhood in Mauritius before making the move to Crawley in 2006.