DHARAMSALA — Sixteen players of a Tibetan women's soccer team, who were denied U.S. visas to participate in a tournament in Texas owing to the Trump administration's new immigration laws, are now travelling to Canada to play a tourney, the team's coach said April 18.
The team is based in Dharamsala, India.
"Our team will travel to Canada this summer to compete in the Vancouver International Soccer Festival! We have received visas and are ready to go!" Tibet Women's Soccer Executive Director Cassie Childers wrote on her Facebook page.
"Making them the first Tibetan women's team in any sport to compete internationally. This is what happens when you Never Give Up," she added.
The denial of visas in February came as the U.S. administration under President Donald Trump was coming with a new immigration order. Its earlier order, now frozen, had called for a travel ban on seven predominantly Muslim countries — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
Most of the players, aged between 18 to 20 years, are Tibetan refugees living in India.
The team had voiced surprise at the visa denial, even as the U.S. embassy said all visa applications were processed according to U.S. law.
They had sought a 10-day tourist visa to the U.S. at the invitation of former English football player and manager Gordon Harold Jago to play the Dallas Cup, a well-known friendly tournament with soccer stars like David Beckham and Wayne Rooney in the alumni list.
This team had played the Discover Football meet in Germany in 2015.
According to the Tibetan women footballers, the US embassy, while rejecting the visa, told them they had "no good reason to travel to the U.S."
After the controversy arose over the denials of U.S. visas, the Central Tibetan Administration clarified that the Tibetan National Sports Association, officially recognized by it, has disassociated itself with the Tibetan Women's Soccer team.
According to the letter, it said "the association has its own women's football team and makes official representation of Tibet in various tournaments within India and abroad."
McLeodganj, on the outskirts of the Dharamsala, the northern Indian hill town, is the headquarters of the Tibetan government-in-exile, where Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama resides along with his followers.