A women’s soccer team from Tibet has been forced to pull out of this spring’s Dallas Cup international youth tournament after the players were denied visas by the U.S. embassy in India, according to The Guardian. It would have been the first team to officially represent Tibet, an autonomous region in China whose sovereignty is a perennial point of contention in international relations, on American soil.
Players told the British newspaper their applications for a 10-day visit to Dallas, which cost about half of the team’s yearly budget, were refused because of fears the team would stay in the U.S., possibly claiming refugee status:
“What they said is we don’t have strong reasons to go to Dallas,” said Jamyang Chotso, a team captain. “But I think this is not the reason for them to reject us. [We] think the reason is they think we might run away when we reach there.”
“For a footballer, football is not just a game,” she added. “Through football I can represent my country and through football I can inspire our girls.”
Tibet remains an especially touchy subject between the U.S. and China. Human Rights Watch and other nongovernmental organizations routinely call attention to gross abuses by Chinese authorities in the region. The U.S. officially recognizes Tibet as a part of China, although former President Barack Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama last year ruffled the feathers of Chinese leaders. How Donald Trump feels about the issue of Tibetan independence is an open question, as the current president has shown both antipathy toward foreign visitors and an affinity for upsetting China.
The Dallas Cup, deprived of the chance to become a focal point in the debate over Tibetan independence, is set for April 9-16 at the Cotton Bowl. It will continue with international youth team competitors from slightly less controversial parts of the world.