The Crawley public are getting behind a campaign to help a local football team reach a World Cup against all the odds this summer.
You may not know it but Crawley is host to a national football team - the Chagos Islands - and the town plays a crucial role in the team’s historic 10,000 mile road to this summer’s CONIFA World Cup.
Almost exactly 50 years ago the Chagossian people were forcibly removed from the Indian Ocean after their islands were sold by the British government to make way for a United States naval base. Several thousand Chagossians took the opportunity to resettle in Crawley from 2002.
The small community are united not just by their shared history of adversity, but by their shared love of football. This passion for the game led to the birth of the Chagos Islands national football team in Crawley, which consists of sons and grandsons of the ancestors who once lived nearly 6,000 miles away on the Chagos Archipelago.
The team recently scored the huge achievement of qualifying for the 2016 CONIFA World Cup in Abkhazia, near Russia — a tournament for exiled and remote nations not recognised by FIFA. For the players — all amateurs training around their full time jobs and student studies—this will be their very first taste of an international football tournament and the pinnacle of their playing careers.
With only minimal funds to contribute to their flights to the World Cup, the side have set up the ‘Cheer Chagos’ campaign to help make the journey possible. The crowdfunding project - which ends this Friday - allows the public to make donations to a fund that will help as many players as possible live out the once in a lifetime chance to play for Chagos on the world stage.
The campaign has so far raised just over £900 and has been backed by television presenter Ben Fogle and poet Benjamin Zephaniah.
The team have expressed their determination to represent more than Chagos alone this summer. Talismanic midfielder Ricky Louis said:
“We cannot return to our Islands but we can return a trophy to our community. We can do it for Chagos and for Crawley. And we can do it together.”
You can find out more about the campaign and donate at: https://www.igg.me/at/cheerchagos
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