Chagos Islands Outline
Situated slap bang in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in the Indian Ocean. The Chagos Islands are a group of seven atolls and around 60 individual tropical islands surrounded by crystal clear blue waters, and soft golden sands. The Chagos Islands would be most peoples’ idea of paradise, but it’s been anything but that for the Chagossians, who used to call these islands home!
The first signs of life on the Chagos Islands were way back in the late 1700s when the French founded its own colony on the biggest island in the Chagos Islands called Diego Garcia. The Brits soon took charge of the islands after the French surrendered (no surprises there). As well as Mauritius and The Seychelles who administered the Chagos Islands at the time, after Napoleon’s defeat in 1814. Initially enslaved Africans from Mozambique and Madagascar were forced to work on the newly founded coconut plantations around the islands, until the British abolished slavery and labourers began to be sourced from India. To this day the ancestors of African slaves and Indian workers are largely the descendants of today’s Chagossians.
Life was good on the Islands during the early 20th century, as the population grew a new language was born along with bustling villages equipped with hospitals, schools and a real feel-good sense of community. Unfortunately for the Chagossians, life would never be the same after the year 1965.
During the early 20th century the Chagos Islands were separated from the Seychelles and began to be controlled by Mauritius, and here’s where things start to get messy! Mauritius was granted independence from the British Empire, but only after the Chagos Islands were illegally separated and bought for a mere £3m by the British Government to be renamed The British Indian Ocean Territories. The United Kingdom (U.K.) would use the new territories in conjunction with the United States to conduct military activities in the region. In the following years, the entire population of the Islands were forcefully removed from their homeland and dumped more than 1,000 miles away in Mauritius and the Seychelles with no support or plans to help them resettle, to make way for a joint military base on the island of Diego Garcia, whilst making it illegal to return without military clearance.
Years and years of legal cases and rulings have repeatedly knocked back any hopes of the Chagossians returning back to their homeland, including the U.K. ignoring a United Nations ruling stating they should hand the Chagos Islands back to Mauritius.
The majority of the islanders have now resettled in the United Kingdom. However, most Chagossian descendants do not have the rights to register as British citizens making it difficult to find work, housing and most importantly maintain any real stability for a good quality of life.
Chagos Islands National Team
Despite all the hardship, it didn’t stop a group of islanders living in Crawley, England from setting up the Union Chagossiene de Football (UCF) in 2004. However, their first fixture didn’t come for another 7 years! They kicked off their first-ever game with a comprehensive 6-1 victory over Raetia, a region of the Alps to the east of Switzerland and north of Italy before a second victory against the Sealand national football team soon followed. Unfortunately, the UCF was forced to fold due to a lack of finances in 2012.
In February 2013 a new organization, the Chagos Football Association, was formed to keep the national team going. They went on to become members of CONIFA in 2014. After playing a few friendly matches against fellow CONIFA members such as Somaliland and Panjab. In January 2016, the Chagos Islands were announced as one of the 12 participants in the 2016 CONIFA World Football Cup, to be hosted by Abkhazia. Unfortunately for the Chagossians, they had a disaster of a tournament finishing rock bottom after heavy 12-0 and 9-0 defeats to Western Armenia and hosts Abkhazia, respectfully.
The Chagos Islands have been handed a tough group at the 2020 edition of the CONIFA Football World Cup, being paired up against two of the top ten CONIFA ranked teams; Kurdistan and Panjab. They’ll have to be on top of their game, and have lady luck on their side, if they stand any chance of qualifying into the later rounds.
Chagos Islands National Team: Just the stats
Manager – Jimmy Ferrar
First Game – Chagos Islands 6 vs 1 Raetia (Crawley, England)
Biggest win – Chagos Islands 6 vs 1 Raetia (Crawley, England)
Biggest defeat – Ellan Vannin (Isle of man) 14 vs 0 Chagos Islands (London, England)
CONIFA Football World Cup record – 12th in the 2016 edition
As official travel partners of CONIFA, we’re mostly neutral, but here at YPT we do have a soft spot for the Chagos Islands, so please consider donating to the fund to help the Chagos Islands football team travel to represent their homeland in the 2020 CONIFA World Football Cup in Skopje, North Macedonia.
Travel to the Chagos Islands is severely restricted, so why not join us on some other scarcely visited tropical islands instead?