This spring at the Dallas Cup, the Tibetan women’s soccer team was supposed to be the first sports team to represent Tibet on American soil.
But after the team spent about $5,000 — half of its yearly budget — on its visa applications, it was denied entry into the United States, allegedly because it did not have a “strong reason” to go to Dallas.
“The US had an opportunity to play host to one of the most inspiring groups of young women on this planet today,” the team’s organizer, Cassie Childers, wrote on a fundraising page. “The United States of America failed today. Utterly.”
Childers and Jamyan Chosto, the team captain, think the team was denied entry because of a (completely unsubstantiated) fear that the girls would all run away when they got to the United States.
“The US had an opportunity to play host to one of the most inspiring groups of young women on this planet today.”
“There [was] no opportunity for them to defect,” Childers told the Hong Kong Free Press. “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.”
The Tibetan women’s soccer team is a trailblazing team that Childers, an American from New Jersey, helped to organize back in 2012. The team is based in India, and the majority of the players are Tibetan refugees living in India, while a few are Nepali citizens. All are between the ages of 15 and 19.
Over the past several years, the team has gained worldwide notoriety. Gordon Jago called Childers last year to invite the team to the Dallas Cup, the most prestigious boy’s soccer tournament in the world, as part of the “Dallas is Diversity” program. Previously, the tournament had hosted a combined Catholic/Protestant team from Northern Ireland and an Israeli team of Muslim and Jewish players, among others.
The team was incredibly excited about the opportunity, and Childers worked with Jago to plan an incredible 10-day trip including home stays with players from a local Dallas club, a visit to an NBA game, and a training session with the university women’s team — “a world they had only heard about in the movies,” Childers said.
Childers detailed the “painstaking” ordeal she went through to apply for tourist visas in the embassies in Nepal and India, including filling out twenty-two 20-page tourist visas online and meeting with consulates in D.C. to ease the process. Still, they were rejected because they had “no good reason” to travel to the U.S., despite the fact that they were VIP guests of the Dallas Cup.
“If a revolutionary women’s soccer team, the first of their kind for Tibetans, can’t get a tourist visa to attend a very prestigious soccer tournament as VIP, legit guests, then WHO, may I ask, DOES DESERVE A VISA?” Childers wrote.
“The consular section of the US State Department is a joke. It is a façade designed to trick innocent people into buying into the American dream, and handing over their $160 to have it all come crashing down before them. And let me remind you again, THEY WEREN’T TRYING TO IMMIGRATE. They were trying to play soccer,” she added.
While Tibet, India, and Nepal are not among the seven countries targeted by the Trump administration’s Muslim ban, some, including the Tibetan Journal, believe that this amounts to extra scrutiny being placed on foreigners traveling to the United States under Trump. There’s also speculation that China could have been involved in the rejection of the visas, as “it is undoubtedly wary of Tibetan women participating in the prestigious cup.”
Whatever the reason, the Tibetan women’s soccer team was denied the opportunity for a wonderful trip, and Americans were denied the opportunity to watch them play and learn from their stories. That’s a loss all around.