March 3 – A women’s team representing Tibet are upset and angry at having been denied visas to take part in a tournament in Texas. Most of the players were Tibetan refugees living in India and had applied at the US embassy in Delhi.
Cassie Childers, executive director of Tibet Women’s Soccer and a US citizen, told the BBC that she had accompanied the group of 16 players for interviews at the embassy on February 24.
“I am disappointed because we had planned the trip for months,” she said. “It was a big moment in every player’s life when they were told about the trip. It was their opportunity to tell the world that Tibetan women are capable of achieving anything.”
Childers said she was “ashamed” about the decision but did not link it with the Donald Trump administration even though questions seem bound to be raised.
Most of the players were aged 18 to 20 years, she said. India does not recognize the players as refugees from Tibet, she added, but as legal residents of India; four were Nepali citizens.
Childers said the team’s invitation to the tournament had been “a dream come true” and followed weeks of painstaking preparation that cost $3,520 – half its yearly budget – plus travel expenses simply to apply. “”I had feared an outcome like this because Tibetans usually struggle to get US visas as officials fear that they might request asylum. (But) they weren’t trying to immigrate. They were trying to play soccer. I hope some other place will invite us where Tibetans are welcomed.”
A US official told The Associated Press that the US position on Tibet had not changed, which is that Tibet is still recognised as part of China.
Tibet Women’s Soccer was planning to take part in the Dallas Cup, an annual tournament for youth teams from around the world. The group was invited by organizers as guests and were to have stayed with local players as part of a diversity programme. But the players were informed told by US embassy officials in Delhi that they could not make the 10-day trip.
“What they said is we don’t have strong reasons to go to Dallas,” said Jamyang Chotso, reported as the team captain. “But I think this is not the reason for them to reject us. [We] think the reason is they think we might run away when we reach there.”
“Through football I can represent my country and through football I can inspire our girls.”
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