New Jersey, USA — After US visa denial, the Tibet Women's Soccer Team said that the team will compete at "the 2017 Vancouver International Soccer Festival (VISF) as special guests and Ambassadors of Peace."
"Tibet Women's Soccer and One Team United for Peace and Development Society are proud to announce that the Tibet Women's Soccer Team will compete at "the 2017 Vancouver International Soccer Festival (VISF) as special guests and Ambassadors of Peace," the Executive Director Cassie Childers said in press statement, issued on May 13, 2017.
"This is the first Tibetan women's team of any sport to compete internationally, and the first Tibetan team of any sex or sport to play on Canadian soil. It is considered by Tibetans to be historic in nature, and serves as a symbol of Tibetan sports diplomacy," she said.
After a video of the young athletes reading a letter in front of the Embassy asking for help went viral, politicians, athletes, attorneys and human rights advocates around the world reached out to the team urging for a reversal of the decision. The story appeared in BBC, The Guardian, The New York Times, The Times of India, NBC Sports, ESPN, CNN, MSNBC, and many more. However, the decision to deny entry remained firm.
According to Childers, "Being denied US visas was one of the most defeating moments in these girls' lives, but our team's saying has always been 'Never Give Up,' and despite the defeat we kept on going. Then the invitation came from Canada, and we were ready. Tibet Women's Soccer is about to show the world what Tibetan women are capable of, and are proud to represent their country in an international setting."
The Canadian Embassy in New Delhi, India has granted the team travel visas to Vancouver, Canada for the 13th annual festival, held July 7-8-9, and to visit Toronto's Tibetan community to play an exhibition match. The team of 14 young Tibetan women welcomed the successful invitation following the February 24th disappointment when they were denied tourist visas by the US Embassy in New Delhi to attend the prestigious Dallas Cup in Texas, which was followed by viral media frenzy resulting in the invitation to Canada.
The team of 14 players will be accompanied by Head Coach and Technical Director Gompo Dorjee (Tibet), former member of the Tibetan men's national team, Executive Director Cassie Childers (USA), and team therapist James Ryle (Ireland). According to Mr. Dorjee, "The team is currently training hard in preparation for the tournament. The players are determined not to let Tibet down, and are very aware that the world is watching."
"At Vancouver's One Team United for Peace and Development Society and the VISF, we believe that soccer has an incredible power which can be used to build bridges between cultures, strengthen communities, create long-lasting friendships and bring our global community closer together," says Adri Hamael, Founder & Executive Director of the society and its showcase VISF event. "Our invitation to the Tibet Women's Soccer Team is extended in the spirit of this mandate. I am deeply touched by the team's inspiring story. As a father of a little girl, for me it is about affording girls and women the opportunity to compete and be treated as equals."
The Tibet team will be co- sponsored by the VISF 2017 and One Team Society. In addition to competing in the VISF 2017, the team will participate in friendly matches with local soccer teams and will be invited to enjoy the many cultural and sightseeing opportunities Vancouver has to offer. They will also be joining forces with a Tibetan men's team based in Calgary to play Tibet's first ever official co-ed friendly match.
During the team's stay in Vancouver, they will be working with Canada's Sport Hall of Fame inductee Andrea Neil. A pioneer of women's soccer in Canada, Neil spent 20 years with the National Team as a player and assistant-coach. Currently Andrea works in the Vancouver area with former Men's National Team player Nick Dasovic at Dasovic-Neil Coaching, where they provide individualized soccer programming and training to elite athletes.
After the tournament in Vancouver, the team will travel to Toronto to interact with the large Tibetan community and play another match.
The team and organiser are calling on supporters for their moral and financial support. "We are currently fundraising to fly the team to Canada. Please, support us by making a donation to One Team United Soccer Society oneteamunited.ca or to Tibet Women's Soccer at tibetwomenssoccer.org. 100% of donations will be directed to pay for costs of the team's travel and living expenses in Vancouver."