An India-based Tibetan women’s football team has said that its players have been denied US tourist visas to attend a tournament in Dallas “for no reason.”

Organiser Cassie Childers said that the 19 players and one coach each paid a non-refundable visa application fee of US$160 (HK$1,200) to the US Embassy in New Delhi, as well as travel and accommodation fees. The team’s total expenditure of almost US$5,000 (HK$39,000) has been lost, though a fundraiser has since been launched to recuperate the costs.

Photo: Tibet Women’s Soccer via Facebook.

The Tibet women’s team was founded in 2011 by New Jersey-based Childers. The players, between them, hold Indian, Nepali and refugee passports.

The team had previously visited Germany in 2015, and were invited to attend the Dallas Cup, a men’s tournament, as part of its diversity programme in April.

‘No good reason’

Childers wrote that on the day of the players’ visa interviews last Friday, US Embassy officials had asked them the positions in which they played, and whether they had any family members in the US. Childers said the officials then asked her: “Can you, like, give me a reason they won’t stay in the USA?”

She claimed that the officials did not look at any of the team’s supporting documents and proof of fiscal sponsorship by the Dallas Cup. She said they simply returned the passports to the players, saying “you have no good reason to visit the US.”

“There [was] no opportunity for them to defect,” Childers told HKFP. “The thought of shaming themselves, their team, and their country in that way sickens them. This is not an anonymous soccer team that no one would notice if they never came back.”

“This is a team that has for years received major media attention,” she added. “[We were] already in talks with BBC, French television, and VICE Sports.”

“This [was] an event of historical proportions for Tibetans throughout the diaspora… they [were] to become the first sports team of any sex to represent Tibet on US soil.”

Childers launched a fundraiser in order to recuperate some of the team’s losses, and organise a training camp in India in March. “We will arrange some kind of alternative tour for matches, to someplace where Tibetans are welcome,” she wrote. By Tuesday, it had raised US$1,808 (HK$14,033) – 36 per cent of its goal.

The US Embassy in New Delhi confirmed to HKFP that the visa applications were denied, but were unable to provide further reasoning.

Elson Tong

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.