Kiwi teen’s visa battle with China – over a game of football

Northland teen Nyima Tsering-Young was selected to play in the prestigious Gothia Cup in China but has missed out because his father is Tibetan.

Northland teen Nyima Tsering-Young was selected to play in the prestigious Gothia Cup in China but has missed out because his father is Tibetan. Northern Advocate/John Stone

By Kirsty Wynn | NZ Herald

ON THE WEB, 3 July 2019

A 14-year-old Kiwi-born footballer selected to play in the prestigious Gothia Cup in China has missed out because his father is Tibetan.

Talented Northland teen Nyima Tsering-Young was picked to play in the upcoming tournament – widely referred to as the “Youth World Cup” – by a private football academy.

But the “stand-out” player has been withdrawn by the academy because of ongoing delays and the high possibility his visa may be declined.

Nyima’s mum, Megan Tsering-Young, said the academy had no choice given the time pressures but said she believed her son had been discriminated against by the Chinese Consulate issuing the visa because of his ethnicity.

“This sort of decision is about racism,” Tsering-Young said.

“There were no delays with any other visas, only Nyima’s.

“All of the visas have been processed in New Zealand but Nyima’s had to be sent to China, and the timeframe is indefinite, of course it’s because he is half-Tibetan.”

In 1950, the newly established Communist Party of China invaded Tibet, a country rich in natural resources and with an important border with India. A failed Tibetan uprising in 1959 saw 87,000 killed. Conflict is ongoing.

Tsering-Young sent her son’s visa application to visit China early because her family had faced delays and declined visas in the past when trying to visit her husband’s family in Tibet. But there were ongoing delays, and emails and calls were ignored.

“Then last week we got an update saying his visa might be considered if he wrote a letter declaring he was only going to play football and ‘not conduct any other activities’.

“I didn’t think a New Zealand-born 14-year-old boy playing football would be a threat – what activities do they think he is going to take part in?”

Tsering-Young said Nyima was willing to write the letter, even though the family thought it was unfair.

But the football academy reluctantly withdrew Nyima from the team because of the uncertainty around his visa.

The academy declined to comment and asked not to be named for fear it could jeopardise the team’s place in the tournament.

Tsering-Young said her husband was upset his heritage was the reason their son missed out on the opportunity to play in the eight-day tournament.

The couple first met in India and had lived in New Zealand for 20 years.

They travelled back to Tibet when Nyima’s grandmother was terminally ill with cancer – and even then there was a long delay on the visas.

“We finally got the visas and she died just months after we saw her,” Tsering-Young said.

On another occasion, the Tsering-Youngs wanted to visit relatives for a holiday in Tibet but their visas were declined.

“What weighs heaviest on my heart is that if a New Zealand-born boy playing football is discriminated against like this then what is daily life like for people in Tibet.

“It is really sad that my children have around 12 or 13 cousins in Tibet but seeing them and communicating with the family has been made really difficult and near impossible.”

There was no social media in Tibet and other avenues of communication were monitored.

Tsering-Young stressed she had never had any issues with Chinese people – only the Chinese regime.

“I just don’t think anyone should ever be discriminated against for their ethnicity and that is what has happened here.”

The Gothia Cup is an eight-day tournament to be held from 12 August in Chengyang district in Qingdao, China.

Since it started in 1975 more than a million players from 143 countries have participated in the tournament. In 2007, FIFA named it the “World Youth Cup”.

On the Gothia Cup website, the vision is “to create a meeting place for the youths of the world no matter religion, colour or nationality”.

The slogan is: “Different Colours, Same World.”

The Chinese Consulate has not responded to requests for comment.

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