By: Grace Liu
When Cedric Joseph, the goalkeeper of the Chagos Island National Team, is at his house in West Sussex, he wears his jersey every day, even if he doesn’t have a match. This is to show his pride for his home country, which is 6,000 miles away.
However, Joseph has never stepped foot on his homeland. His grandmother was born on the Chagos Island. But, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the UK evicted the entire population to make way for a military airbase.
Many of the evicted Chagossians were taken to Mauritius, where Joseph was born. But his grandmother’s heart remained in her homeland, and the pain of the forced migration was still there.
This football team is trying to keep the story of their ancestors alive and represent their lost homeland. The first Chagos Island team was established two decades ago in Crawley in the UK, where most of the Chagossians lived.
For a while, the Chagos Island team took part in a local league and played a few matches, but soon, they ran into financial problems, and they eventually folded. Then in 2013, the Chagos Football Association was formed by Sabrina Jean, a Chagossian activist.
The UK let the people living in Mauritius have independence, but in turn, the UK kept sovereignty over Chagos Island.
Jean visited the island in 2011 as part of an organized trip by the UK’s government. She said it was a bittersweet moment. "When I first put my feet on the island, even though you weren't born there, you can feel it," she says. "You feel the sadness in you."
All the buildings and churches there with memories inside were all gone. Jean said one of the most painful moments was seeing the neglected cemetery where her ancestors were buried.
The football team she sponsored was created for Chagossians to show and embrace their identities. “We want to show what we've been through, what our families went through, where we're from. One of the ways we have shown our identity is through football,” says Joseph. Joseph feels his proudest wearing his goalkeeper glove with the Chagos Island flag on it.
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