By Our Reporter
The dreams of An 18-year-old Nigerian football player, who is currently facing the risk of being deported from France.
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.
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.”
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,” Chalowku 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.”
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.
“It broke me; I was sad. My plans and dreams were crushed when I received the prefecture’s letter. All is not well with me right now,” Chalokwu said.
“My lawyer filed an appeal against the deportation notice. But I haven’t had a response yet.
“I don’t want to return to Nigeria. I cannot realise my dream there. And even if the war ends, I don’t want to return to Ukraine too. The memory I have of it is terrible. I don’t want to return after what I lived through there.”
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.”