18-Year-Old Nigerian Football Player Faces Deportation from France
Discovering Football in Ukraine
Clinton Chalokwu, an 18-year-old Nigerian football player, is currently facing the risk of being deported from France. According to Infomigrants, a news and information website for migrants, Chalokwu left Nigeria for Ukraine in October 2021, after being selected by a Ukrainian agency looking for young African talents in football. When Chalokwu arrived in Ukraine, he was selected to play for Vorskla Poltava, a first division club in the country’s football league.
Derailment of Career
As he was about signing his first contract as a professional player in February 2022, the Russia-Ukraine war broke out. “I passed selections, then stayed three months in Kyiv, before joining the first division Vorskla Poltava team. I was supposed to sign my first professional player contract late February, but war broke out,” Chalokwu said. “It was sad and I was scared. It was traumatising to see the war. So, I took a train for civilians fleeing the fighting and went to Hungary, where I stayed for three weeks. But, I decided to leave the country because there was a lot of racism and there wasn’t a good football league there as well. I couldn’t pursue my dream there. So, I left for France.”
Struggle in France
When Chalokwu arrived in France, he lived in a shelter meant for refugees for three months. In November 2022, he eventually got a chance to live with a host family in Bricqueville-la-Blouette, Normandy, northwestern France. “When I left the shelter, I could not speak a single word in French. I, however, learned the language with this family,” Chalokwu said. “At the beginning, I couldn’t go out because it was risky. It was risky because I didn’t have a complete application to go to the prefecture. Soon, we were able to get a lawyer who could help me apply for the right immigration papers.”
Rejection of Immigration Application
As soon as Chalokwu applied for his prefecture papers, the permit documents issued by the country’s ministry of interior to foreigners, he decided to take up a volunteer role at FC Agon Countainville, a local football club in the neighbourhood he resides in. “I volunteered to train young kids. I was even promised to go through sports instructor training in Caen. I only needed an immigration status to start. I had already succeeded at the school’s admissions test,” said Chalokwu. On February 21, Chalokwu got a response from the ministry stating that his application had been denied. He was also asked to leave the country within 30 days.
A Ray of Hope
After Clinton received the deportation notice, his football club and host family circulated a petition. By March 14, the petition had been signed by more than 5,000 people. A protest was also organised on the matter. “I got support from many people. Seeing so many people show interest in my cause gave me a morale boost. Now, I know I’m not alone. It is helping me in staying positive,” Chalokwu said. “I hope everything works out and that the appeal will go through because I only want to fulfill my dream. The war that broke out wasn’t my fault.”
A Plea for Support
This is a sad instance of how the war clashes in the world affect youths left with dreams of making a better life for themselves. Clinton Chalokwu’s case is gaining more attention every day, but he still needs all the support he can get as he fights to remain in France and continue pursuing his football career.