British Columbia

Vancouver soccer tournament cuts ties with Canada Soccer, B.C. Soccer over Tibetan women's team

The Vancouver International Soccer Festival has cut ties with the B.C. Soccer Association over the participation of a Tibetan women's soccer team in next month's tournament.

Organizer says scrutiny over Team Tibet's participation is unprecedented and 'does not align with our values.'

The inclusion of the Tibetan women's soccer team in the upcoming Vancouver International Soccer Festival is causing friction between tournament organizers and the Canadian Soccer Association. (Tibetan Women's Soccer)

The Vancouver International Soccer Festival has cut ties with the B.C. Soccer Association over the participation of a Tibetan women's soccer team in next month's tournament.

Tournament founder Adri Hamael told CBC News that he has asked the B.C. Soccer Association to cancel the Vancouver International Soccer Festival's membership with the organization and sanctioning.

"I do not see a point in staying a member," said Hamael. "VISF's core values are inclusion, respect and equality and by asking for a list of [the Tibetan players] while not requiring a list of all of our participants does not align with our values."

Team Tibet in training in Clementown, India, June 12. The team is scheduled to play in the opening match of the Vancouver International Soccer Festival July 7. (Tibet Women's Soccer)

According to Hamael Canada Soccer, through the BCSA, started making unprecedented demands of VISF organizers once it was announced the Tibetan women's team would play in the tournament.

Tibet not recognized by FIFA

Hamael believes the extra scrutiny is due to the fact that Tibet is not recognized by FIFA, the body that rules soccer internationally.

"I believe they are trying to find something to prevent the team from playing," he said last week.

Canada Soccer is a member of FIFA. The B.C. Soccer Association is the provincial arm of Canada Soccer.

Team Tibet consists of 14 players age 16 to 20 who are living in exile in Nepal and India. They are part of a humanitarian outreach program that teaches soccer to girls.

Team Tibet will make its international debut at the Vancouver International Soccer festival, after being denied tourist visas to attend a tournament in Dallas (Tibet Women's Soccer)

The Vancouver International Soccer Festival is in its 13th year of operation and has been sanctioned by B.C. Soccer since 2009.

'Full power...to veto games'

Hamael says in recent weeks Canada Soccer conducted a review of VISF tournament rules and began requesting additional documentation, including the names of the Tibetan players and the travel approval documents issued by their national soccer association.

Tibet does not have a national soccer organization — something that Canada Soccer would likely be aware of.

In an email sent by the B.C. Soccer Association on behalf of Canada Soccer it was also suggested non-compliance with the requests would affect the tournament's insurance status, although according to Hamael the VISF has insurance through an independent provider.

Canada Soccer regulations

In a statement the BCSA said it is obligated to comply with Canada Soccer regulations, which state:

"Provincial/Territorial Associations, District Associations, Leagues and Clubs wishing to arrange exhibition games in Canada between their amateur team(s) and amateur teams from another National Association shall request permission in writing from Canada Soccer's General Secretary at least thirty (30) days prior to the scheduled date of the proposed game.

"Canada Soccer shall have full power and authority to sanction or veto any such game."

Hamael says his tournament has never been asked to submit the names or travel documents of players on foreign teams in the past to receive approval from B.C. Soccer.

Tournament will go on

He says this year's tournament won't be impacted by the change in status.

"All my licences, VISF insurance, and all my venue permits are confirmed and are not affected by my decision to withdraw my membership and sanctioning," he said.

"We cannot wait to welcome all VISF athletes and guests regardless of their nationalities and backgrounds, whether they are affiliated or not — that's why I created this event."

CBC News requests to speak to a Canada Soccer official were not returned.

The Vancouver International Soccer Festival is set to begin July 7 at Empire Fields in East Vancouver.

Tibet plays Canada in the opening match.​