Tibet Women’s Soccer Team to Play in Vancouver After U.S. Visa Denial

The Tibetan Women’s Soccer team was denied entry into the United States as reported here in February. As I wrote then:

Tibet Women’s Soccer team, the “Snow Lionesses,” has been denied visas to come to the U.S. They were planning to join in an upcoming tournament. The team, based in India and coached by New Jersey native Cassie Childers was told that they “have no good reason to visit the U.S.”

In March, a pair of Republican congressmen from New Jersey (the home of team’s coach, Cassie Childers) asked Sec. of State Rex Tillerson to reconsider the denial.

In the letter, the congressmen noted that the cup has in the past hosted “Israeli-Palestinian teams, Iraqi teams, and mixed South African and Protestant-Catholic Irish teams…”

What’s more, the Tibet Women’s Soccer team was scheduled to meet the mayor of Dallas, to lead the opening day procession into the Cotton Bowl stadium, and receive widespread media coverage. [read the full letter from both congressmen to Tillerson ]

And the:

Dallas Cup officials issued a press release, vowing to work with officials at all levels “in assisting the Tibet Women’s Soccer initiative through their visa application process however long it takes.”

But to no avail.

Visas for the team were never granted. But now, the team will make its North American debut in Vancouver, Canada. Adri Hamael, founder of the Vancouver International Soccer Festival, heard about the denial and stepped up:

“I was really angered by the story, ” he told the CBC. “I mean how threatening are 14 Tibetan women to the United States? Then immediately my anger turned into a thought — I have to get this team to Canada.”

On June 29, Hamael’s vision will become reality when the women arrive in Vancouver, ready to represent as the first female Tibetan team to play internationally in any sport.

Coach Cassie Childers told the CBC that the team “freaked out” when they heard the news. Life for them, like other Tibetans in exile, is very difficult. Contact with families still in Tibet is difficult, sometimes impossible. And support for the women’s soccer team hasn’t been strong within their exile community.

“It’s still extremely conservative and extremely sexist. Men in their own community are still actively trying to get them to stop playing,” Childers told the CBC.

See their announcement about receiving Canadian Visas and thanking supporters:

The team was successful in crowdfunding over $20,000 to quickly purchase air tickets for the event and will face a Canadian women’s team at the Vancouver International Soccer Festival, which kicks off on Friday, July 7.

Here the team chants “Van – cou – ver”:

Yet another hurdle

Team Tibet is now facing problems playing in Canada as well. According to a local news organization, “Tournament founder Adri Hamael says the Canadian Soccer Association has suddenly started asking for all kinds of additional paperwork, including travel documents for the Tibetan players and a copy of the tournament rules.”

The organization is threatening the insurance status of the entire tournament due to the Tibetan team’s presence, as they are not officially recognized by FIFA, the international football (soccer) association. Organizer Adri Hamael said he finds it “strange” and unprecedented in his 13 years of organizing the event.

“I believe they are trying to find something to prevent the team from playing,” he told local news.

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