Tibet women’s soccer team denied US visas to participate in Dallas Cup soccer tournament

By Lobsang Tenchoe

DHARAMSALA, March 2: Dreams of the Tibetan women’s soccer team players crumbled as the US Embassy in New Delhi turned away their visa requests and told the players seeking travel visas to participate in the Dallas Cup soccer tournament that they do not have a ‘good enough reason’ to visit the country.

The members of the Tibetan women’s soccer team had their visa request declined on Feb 24 by the US Embassy officials in New Delhi. The players were told their trip to take part in the Dallas Cup soccer tournament is a reason not good enough to visit the US, The New York Times reported.

“Sixteen members of the team were told at the US Embassy in New Delhi, India, that they have no good reason to visit the US,” the report quoted Cassie Childers, coach and executive director of Tibet Women’s Soccer team as saying.

Image: Priyanka Parashar
Image: Priyanka Parashar

Out of the 16 team members who had their visa application turned down by the the US Embassy officials, two members hold Indian passports. The rest had identity certificates issued by the Indian government for Tibetan refugees, which functions as travel documents for exile Tibetans in India to travel abroad.

Four members of the team from Nepal with Nepalese passports had their interviews on Feb 4 in Kathmandu, however they are yet to hear from the US officials.

Childers, who described the inclusion in the tournament as a dream come true was disgusted and ashamed of her country following the visa rejection; she claimed that the embassy officials did not glance at the documents nor provide any other reasons or explanations.

Though the tournament is a boy’s event, the Tibetan Women’s Soccer team

had been invited as guests and were scheduled to lead a parade at the Cotton Bowl, The Dallas Morning News cited former Dallas Cup executive director Gordon Jago as stating.

“Cassie Childers’ team is neither recognized by the TNSA nor by the Tibetan government-in-exile. 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. We did not know about the invitation from Dallas, ” The New York Times quoted Kelsang Dhondup, Executive Secretary of Tibetan National Sports Association (TNSA) as saying in its report.

With the emergence of two Tibetan women’s soccer teams, one each from the TNSA and Cassie Childers, the Tibetan women’s soccer team has become the bone of contention between TNSA and Cassie Childers, an American teacher and a lifelong soccer player who conceived the Tibetan Women’s Football Programme after attending an exhibition showcasing the history of Tibetan soccer.

Childers parted ways with TNSA and runs Tibet Women’s Soccer Team as a legal entity (NGO) with a board and have trademarked the name as well. Her team has participated in a tournament in Germany two years ago without any visa issues and also made it to the finals in a football tournament held in Goa last year.

“There is no team grouped by TNSA. They had a camp for schoolgirls once. As far as I know, there is only one women’s team in operation, and that is ours, ‘Tibet women’s soccer team’. We are a legal entity (NGO) with a board and all, and have trademarked the name,” Childers told Tibet Express last May in an interview.

Participation in the Dallas Cup soccer tournament, scheduled to be held from April 9-16 for youth teams from around the world, would have made the Tibetan women’s soccer team the first ever Tibetan sports team of any sex to represent Tibet on US soil.