The Tibet Women’s Soccer team, invited as VIPs to a Dallas tournament, was denied U.S. visas without any explanation last week.
The team had been preparing for a year for the Dallas Cup, which Coach Cassie Childers called “the most prestigious boys’ tournament in the world.” Composed of girls who arrived as refugees in India, they were supposed to be the very first sports team representing Tibet on American soil.
Childers received the invitation from English football legend Gordon Jago, who offered to bring the team to the tournament with all costs sponsored.
Unfortunately, their presence looks distant from the April 2017 event. On February 24, the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi rejected their application because they “have no good reason” to visit the United States. Childers recalled:
“All we needed was the visas. Simple tourist visas to visit the US for ten days. We had all the invitations, the proof of fiscal sponsorship. We prepared everything perfectly. I even had a meeting at the State Department in DC, where I met with consular officials to explain the purpose of the trip and its massive significance not only for these young women, but for Tibet. Two of those officials promised to contact the embassies in Nepal and India, where we would be applying.”
“All the invitations were in order. The conditions were perfect. The girls were asked what position they played on the team, and if they had any relatives in the US. The officer did not even look at their supporting documents. That’s it. Rejected. The only explanation given: ‘YOU HAVE NO GOOD REASON TO TRAVEL TO THE USA.'”
Childers could not believe the turnaround of events. To make things worse, the team already spent $5,000 on their visa application process, which was half their yearly budget:
“No good reason. No good reason. I have traveled to so many countries in this world that I have lost count. I have never had to attend an interview for a visa. WHY? WHY?”
“If a revolutionary women’s soccer team, the first of their kind for Tibetans, can’t get a tourist visa to attend a very prestigious soccer tournament as VIP, legit guests, then WHO, may I ask, DOES DESERVE A VISA?”
Team Captain Jamyang Chotso has a theory (via The Guardian):
“What they said is we don’t have strong reasons to go to Dallas. 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.”
Following the grim rejection, Childers took their story to Generosity for crowdfunding in hopes of replenishing the expenses they lost. Fortunately, they raised $6,381 in just five days, exceeding their $5,000 goal.
“The consular section of the US State Department is a joke. It is a façade designed to trick innocent people into buying into the American dream, and handing over their $160 to have it all come crashing down before them. And let me remind you again, THEY WEREN’T TRYING TO IMMIGRATE. They were trying to play soccer,” Childers wrote.
For now, the team sets their eyes on a planned training camp in India and “an alternative tour” where they can proudly show their A-game. As Childers put it, it must be “somewhere that Tibetans are welcome.”
Childers concludes, “The US had an opportunity to play host to one of the most inspiring groups of young women on this planet today. The United States of America failed today. Utterly.”