A 16-member Tibetan women’s football team has been denied US visas to participate in a tournament in Texas. The Tibetan National Sports Association on Thursday voiced surprise at the denial, even as the US embassy said all visa applications were processed according to US law.
The team comprises girls from Tibetan Children’s Village (TCV) schools being run by the Central Tibetan Administration.
They had sought a 10-day tourist visa to the US at the invitation of former English football player and manager Gordon Harold Jago to play the Dallas Cup, a well-known friendly tournament with soccer stars like David Beckham and Wayne Rooney in the alumni list.
“We are really perturbed over the behaviour of US embassy officials over the denial of visa to our team as all of them were carrying necessary travel documents,” an official of the Tibetan National Sports Association, a non-governmental organisation based in McLeodganj, told IANS.
The Tibetan official, requesting anonymity, said this team had played the Discover Football meet in Germany in 2015.
A spokesperson of the US Embassy in New Delhi, asked for comments, told IANS: “Under United States law, visa records of the US Department of State are confidential. All visa applications are reviewed individually in accordance with the requirements of US law.”
According to the Tibetan women footballers, the US embassy, while rejecting the visa, told them they had “No good reason to travel to the US”.
The denial of visa comes as the US administration under President Donald Trump is coming with a new immigration order. Its earlier order, now frozen, had called for a travel ban on seven predominantly Muslim countries -- Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
Cassie Childers, a US woman footballer from New Jersey and executive director of Tibet Women’s Soccer, said of the incident on her Facebook page: “And as we stood outside the embassy this morning (February 25), not sure what to do or where to go, I in a nearly catatonic state of shock, the girls decided to pen a letter to the legend Gordon Jago, the man who invited us to the Dallas Cup.”
“After writing it out on the dusty curb, they asked a guy on the street to video them reading it, since none of us had phones (not allowed at embassy). This is the result. I had absolutely nothing to do with this, and sat there mesmerized as they organized themselves and held onto hope,” Childers, who has trained the Tibetan women team, said.
The Tibetan National Sports Association every year organises the Gyalyum Chemo Memorial Gold Cup Football Tournament, played in Dharamsala.
Instituted in the memory of the Dalai Lama’s mother, the tournament is a platform for the Tibetans-in-exile to protect their identity and showcase their talent.
McLeodganj, on the outskirts of the Dharamsala, the northern Indian hill town, is the headquarters of the Tibetan government-in-exile, where Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama resides.
Around 140,000 Tibetans live in exile, of whom over 100,000 are in different parts of India.