One thing that the Stick To Sports crowd tends to ignore— politics happens in sports whether people write about it or not.
Case in point: in the name of keeping the country’s borders secure and the American people “safe,” a women’s soccer team from Tibet was denied entry to the US. Yes, really.
The 15-woman squad was set to visit the US for 10 days this coming April for the Dr Pepper Dallas Cup. Per the tournament’s website:
”The Dallas Cup is by invitation only and teams are selected for invitation based on their competitive performance as shown on the on-line application which is normally available in late summer for the following year’s tournament. All performance information is verified through the Dallas Cup’s worldwide network. In past years, teams and referees have traveled to Dallas from one hundred countries and six continents.”
The Tibetan women’s team was extended an invitation as part of the tournament’s diversity initiative. They were to be welcomed along with a Muslim-Jewish combination squad from Israel and a Catholic-Protestant team from Ireland.
As part of their visa applications, the young women— most of whom are Indian citizens— made their way to Delhi for a round of in-person interviews with officials at the US Embassy. Travelling to Delhi came at considerable personal expense— in money ($160 per applicant, which is a hefty sum for many in the region), in leaves taken from work and school, and in time away from families.
But the squad finally made it to Delhi for their interviews. And then they received word— every single one of them had been rejected.
Squad captain Jamyang Chotso has her suspicions as to why they were denied entry to the US. “What they said is we don’t have strong reasons to go to Dallas. But I think this is not the reason for them to reject us. [We] think the reason is they think we might run away when we reach there.”
One of her teammates, Yangdan Lhamo, was absolutely heartbroken. “USA is one of the most famous countries in the world, an educated country, but they do so much to help uneducated people. I feel very upset the USA rejected us. [...] I still want to play there, because this is our only chance to represent our country in the greatest country on Earth.”
Head coach Cassie Childers said that, between tournament application fees and travel expenses, the team had spent $3,520 on its failed bid to fly to the US— about half its annual budget. Now they have nothing to show for it.
“They weren’t trying to immigrate,” Childers said. “They were trying to play soccer.”
I’m sure we all feel better knowing these “improving vetting procedures” are keeping us all safe.