February 20 – US president Donald Trump’s executive order barring those from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen entering the country – now on hold – has nevertheless had its first high profile impact on a footballer.
Dwight Yorke, the former Manchester United and Trinidad and Tobago striker, was turned off a flight from Qatar to Miami in the US where he was making a connection to travel to his home in Trindad. In the US transit passengers have to pass through US immigration and customs before they can make connections to other countries.
Yorke was prevented from taking the flight to Miami in Doha where officials told him that because he had an Iranian stamp in his passport he would be turned back from Miami. Yorke played for ‘World Stars’ in a charity match against ‘Iranian Stars’ in Tehran in 2015 and hence had his passport stamped by the Iranians – he did not even spend a night in the country.
“I couldn’t quite believe what was happening” Yorke told the Sun newspaper. “I have lost count of the number of times I have been to America. I love the country, yet I was being made to feel like a criminal.”
Other players who played in that World Stars charity match in Iran, and who presumably will also now face problems travelling to (or transiting through) the US, include Roberto Carlos, Luis Figo and Pauleta who were joined by the likes of Michel Salgado, who captained the side, Guti, Fernando Hierro, Fernando Couto, Vitor Baia, Marcel Desailly, Gaizka Mendieta, Edgar Davids, and Jari Litmanen.
“I had bought my ticket and checked in and was about to get on the flight when I was stopped by two officials. I thought, ‘What is happening here?’ They told me there was a visa problem and a red flag had come up against my name because of an Iranian stamp in my passport. I went there to play in a legends match to open a stadium and didn’t even stay overnight,” Yorke said.
“The two officials told me if I got on the flight I would simply be deported back to Qatar once I arrived in the States. I tried to explain I didn’t even live in Qatar and was just trying to get to my home in the Caribbean.”
There is a certain irony in this. Yorke was prevented from getting to Trinidad by the US which is having trouble getting indicted former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner out of Trinidad. One wonders if they perhaps might have considered a swap deal – it would be in keeping with the idiosyncratic level of political trading the US has dropped to under its current administration.
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