After a year of preparation, the Tibetan Women’s Soccer team had their visa applications denied by the US Embassy in New Delhi last week, meaning that they will not be representing Tibet at a prestigious tournament in Dallas in April.
Cassie Childers, the organizer of Tibetan Women’s Soccer, wrote that a year ago she had received a call from former English footballer Gordon Jago offering to bring the entire team to participate in the Dallas Cup, an international boys soccer tournament, with all their expenses paid. After the call, Childers started setting things up, hoping to make it a trip of a lifetime for the girls:
Ten days in Dallas, treated like the queens that they are, crowned with the opportunity to lead the opening day parade into the Cotton Bowl stadium under the Tibetan flag, and the honor being the first sports team of any sex to represent Tibet on US soil.
Every detail was hammered out over two trips I took to Dallas. The team would be training with a university women’s team, doing homestays with players from a local club, attending an NBA game, visiting the Aquarium and Six Flags, and seeing a world they had only heard about in movies. It was all confirmed.
All they needed was their US tourist visas. But after spending one year and $5,000 on the visa application process, they came up empty-handed with the US Embassy telling Childers’ that the team had “no good reason” for visiting the US.
As you might expect, Childers didn’t appreciate that response:
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?
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.
After receiving the bad news, Childers set up a fundraising page to help the team replenish the funds it had lost applying for the visas. In less than four days, the team surpassed its goal of $5,000 raised. Along with Childers’ account, the page also includes a video of one of the girls reading out a written statement about what happened. “We talk, sleep and drink Dallas Cup,” she says. “Until today.”
The Tibetan Women’s Soccer team is made up of girls living around India who arrived as refugees after they or their parents fled across the border from Tibet. Jamyang Chotso, a team captain, told the Guardian she believes that their applications had been rejected by the US Embassy because “they think we might run away when we reach there.”
[Images via Facebook]
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