Dharamshala — After spending $5,000 on visa applications and a year of preparation to attend the Dallas Cup, the 15 members of the Tibet Women's Soccer team — were denied tourist visas to the United States by the US Embassy in New Delhi, the capital of India, on February 24, 2017.
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 team was invited by former English football player Gordon Jago to spend ten days in Texas as VIP guests in attendance to the Dallas Cup, a prestigious boys' soccer tournament, and to lead the opening-day procession into the stadium.
"All we needed was the visas. Simple tourist visas to visit the US for ten days. We had all the invitations, the proof of fiscal sponsorship. We prepared everything perfectly," Cassie Childers, Executive Director at Tibet Women's Soccer said in a statement.
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.
"I even had a meeting at the State Department in DC, where I met with consular officials to explain the purpose of the trip and its massive significance not only for these young women, but for Tibet. Two of those officials promised to contact the embassies in Nepal and India, where we would be applying," she said.
"Everything was filed properly. All the invitations were in order. The conditions were perfect. The girls were asked what position they played on the team, and if they had any relatives in the US. The officer did not even look at their supporting documents," she said, adding: "That's it. Rejected."
"The US had an opportunity to play host to one of the most inspiring groups of young women on this planet today. The United States of America failed today. Utterly," Childers stressed.
"We have decided as a team to keep going despite all of this. We have decided to never give up. We will still gather for our planned training camp on March 15, and we will arrange some kind of alternative tour for matches, to someplace where Tibetans are welcome," she further added.
Childers says they had an amazing time on the night before the interview. "We went over all our favorite memories from the team. The time Wangla scored four goals in a tough match to win the game after a really rough battle convincing her family to let her play soccer. The first time Choezom, born to a nomad yak herding family on the Tibetan plateau, saw the ocean in Goa. When Sherab met a Chinese player in Germany and instead of hating her, hugged her. It went on and on, and we laughed and cried, and they all started to believe, really believe, that they deserved to go to Dallas and represent their country. They were ready."
In May 2015, Tibet Women's Soccer announced its reincorporation as a completely independent association committed to the ideals of gender equality and self-determination. To date, Tibet Women's Soccer has engaged more than 3,000 young Tibetan women living in exile, and continues to expand. We are confident in our ability to continue expanding our program offerings within the Tibetan exile community, and are staging our association for major progression under these new reforms.
The Tibet Women's Soccer says it aims to facilitate the expansion of the female Tibetan voice, nurture the idea that Tibetan women possess the talent and capabilities equivalent to men, forge the bonds of sisterhood and provide an arena in which they can safely experiment with these new developments.
In 1949 China began its invasion of the sovereign Buddhist nation of Tibet, a massive, remote Himalayan kingdom. China's invasion, brought on by its desire to control Tibet's rich natural resources and strategic borders alongside India, still continues today. The Chinese occupation has resulted in the death of over one million Tibetans, the destruction of over 6,000 monasteries, nunneries and temples, and the imprisonment and torture of thousands of Tibetans. The basic freedoms of speech, religion, and assembly are strictly limited, and arbitrary arrests continue. There are currently hundreds of political prisoners in Tibet.