What seemed like a devastating setback has turned into a wonderful opportunity for a Tibetan women’s soccer team, and the USA’s loss can now be counted as a gain for Vancouver.
Two months ago, 14 young players — all Tibetan refugees living in India or Nepal — were supposed to be in Texas, appearing as the special guests of the Dallas Cup, a prestigious international youth soccer tournament.
The women, age 16 to 20, were thrilled to get the invitation. But excitement quickly turned to disappointment when American embassy officials rejected their tourist visa applications, stating the team “had no strong reason to travel to the USA.”
Against the backdrop of President Donald Trump’s crusade to impose travel bans, the story gained international attention, fuelled by a heartfelt team video that went viral.
That’s when Adri Hamael, founder of the Vancouver International Soccer Festival, stepped in.
“I was really angered by the story, “ he said. “I mean how threatening are 14 Tibetan women to the United States? Then immediately my anger turned into a thought — I have to get this team to Canada.”
On June 29, Hamael’s vision will become reality when the women arrive in Vancouver, ready to represent as the first female Tibetan team to play internationally in any sport.
Soccer legend Andrea Neil has signed on to help coach, and on July 7, the historic match will take place at Empire Fields when Tibet faces a Canadian side.
Team Tibet founder Cassie Childers says the players “freaked out” when they learned Canada was welcoming their visit with open arms
“They were elated. As hard as the day was when we were denied U.S. visas … this is the happy ending to our story,” she said.