The Chagos Island football team have qualified for the The Confederation of Independent Football Associations (ConIFA) World Football Cup.
And the team held a fundraiser to help them pay to get to the tournament in Abkhazia.
The fundraiser was held today (Sunday) at Broadfield Community Centre and the Chagos Island players were there along with MP Henry Smith.
The team have already raised £3000 towards the costs of travelling to the ConIFA* World Cup.
But they need to raise £7000 more so they can realise their dream.
Sabrina Jean, organiser of the day at Broadfield Community Centre, told the audience: “It’s 2016 now and it’s a key year for the Chagossian cause.
We hope the Chagos Island team will make you proud in May 2016 and maybe we can return with the ConIFA World Cup. This is my dream.Sabrina Jean
“First because the US Military Police on the Diego Garcian Island will come to an end in December after 50 years.
“Secondly I have the pleasure to announce that our foootball team has been selected for participation in the ConIFA World Cup which is an international footballl competition dedicated to the micro nations.
“It’s great a honour because there were 23 nations who applied and we the Chagos Footballl Association are among the 12 nominees for the finals.
“We hope the Chagos Island team will make you proud in May 2016 and maybe we can return with the ConIFA World Cup.
“This is my dream.”
Mr Smith said: “I would like to pay tribute to the Chagos Island team here in Crawley and across this country.
“Your struggle has been well known over four decades now, and your time in Crawley over the last decade has been characterized by a very strong and resilient community.
“In Parliament I worked very hard to make the case for the right of return of the Chagos Islanders but I amm delighted that you are being recognised in the ConIFA World Cup that you are a nation that deserves it’s own recognition as a footballing team.
“I hope that very soon that you will be able to play football on the islands of Diego Garcia the Chagos Archipelago and that finally not only will you achieve political justice and be abke to return to your homeland but also great football success as well so I wish you the best of luck and what I will be doing is looking at ways we can find the funding to help secure that £10,000 that you need to be able to mae the most of being able to compete in this fantastic tournament.”
Coach Gino Augustin said: “If we lift the World Cup it not only be for the Chagoiios Islanders, it will be for the town of Crawley and the whole of England.”
The ConIFA World Cup will take place in late May in Abkhazia and 12 nations are due to take part.
If you would like to sponsor the Chagos Foootball Association, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or they have a PayPal account on chagosrefugeesgroup.org
*The Confederation of Independent Football Associations (ConIFA) was founded in June 2013, as an organisation to represent football associations that are not eligible or choose not to join FIFA. One year later, it held its first official tournament, the 2014 ConIFA World Football Cup, in Sweden, to which the twelve participating teams were invited. The success of this tournament led to the decision to make it a biannual competition, with continental tournaments taking place in between, the first of which was the 2015 ConIFA European Football Cup.
During the planning process for the European Football Cup, ConIFA took the decision that, in addition to finding its first European champions, the competition would also serve as a qualification tournament for the 2016 World Football Cup, with the top three teams gaining automatic entry into the WFC. The finalised European Football Cup eventually featured a total of six teams, including both the current WFC champions, Countea de Nissea, and the runners up, Ellan Vannin.
However, in mid-May 2015, a few weeks prior to the fixtures taking place, the fixtures as planned were cancelled and replaced by a four team tournament called the Niamh Challenge Cup, with Ellan Vannin and Alderney joined by teams representing Felvidék and Punjab. At the same time, ConIFA announced that they were officially sanctioning the tournament, with the winners gaining automatic entry to the WFC.
A second tournament, the Benedikt Fontana Cup, hosted in Switzerland by the Fussballauswahl Raetia, was announced as taking place in parallel with the EFC in June 2015, with three participants, including the hosts Raetia, Felvidék and the Chagos Islands. ConIFA also announced that this too would serve as a qualification tournament for the WFC, with the winner gaining automatic entry.
In addition to the qualification process that ConIFA put in place, the organisation announced in May that it had reached an agreement with the football association representing the Aymara people for their team to be the first South Americans to play at the World Football Cup.
The Benedikt Fontana Cup was planned as a two game tournament held over two days in June 2015 between Raetia and the Chagos Islands, with the winners automatically qualifying for the World Football Cup. The competition was originally planned as a three team tournament, with Panjab and Felvidek due to take part alongside the hosts. Panjab were forced to withdraw in May 2015, and were replaced by the Chagos Islands.
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