Image via Tibet Women's Soccer Facebook page.
Sixteen members of a Tibetan women's soccer team were denied visas to visit the United States to go to Dallas for a ceremonial soccer tournament to be held in April. During a visit to the U.S. embassy in New Delhi on February 24, the women were told that they "have no good reason to visit the U.S.," according to Cassie Childers, the executive director of Tibet Women's Soccer, via a report by the Associated Press.
Of the 16 players, 14 hold Indian Identity Certificates—issued to Tibetan refugees by the Indian government—while the head coach and another player hold Indian passports. Four other players, all of whom live in Nepal and hold passports from the country, are still under administrative processing after an interview on February 4 in Kathmandu.
"There is no opportunity for them to defect, and the thought of shaming themselves, their team, and their country in that way sickens them," Childers told the AP. "This is not an anonymous soccer team that no one would notice if they never came back."
No reason seems to have been provided for the denied entry. Tibet is not one of the countries that would have been covered by President Donald Trump's immigration executive order from January, which has since been blocked by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the wake of ongoing legal challenges. A State Department official told the AP that the United States' stance toward Tibet has not changed, either. It still views Tibet to be a part of the People's Republic of China.
The Tibet Women's Soccer team is separate from the Tibetan National Sports Association. It is a charity run by Childers, who is based in New Jersey. A Tibetan team was granted visas to participate in a tournament in Germany two years ago but Childers had since left that team to run this charity.
The Dallas Cup
, the tournament the team was to play in, was sponsoring their trip, but executive secretary of the Tibetan National Sports Association said the organization did not even know about the invitation.
"Cassie Childers' team is neither recognized by the TNSA nor by the Tibetan government-in-exile," TNSA executive secretary Kelsang Dhondup told the AP. "Even though the players in her team are Tibetan, the team does not officially represent Tibet. TNSA is the only sports authority recognized by the Tibetan government and all invitations to our official teams are processed through the relevant TNSA and government authorities."
Update 6:26 p.m.: The Dallas Cup organizers released a statement in an effort to clarify that the team was not going to actually play in the tournament, since it is a boy's tournament only. A charity associated with the tournament had invited the Tibet Women's Soccer team as guests.
Statement from Dallas Cup regarding the Tibetan Women Soccer Team. pic.twitter.com/xRuQSb9iMv
— Dr Pepper Dallas Cup (@dallascup) March 1, 2017