VISA problems continue to hamper Africa sports tournaments
by Botlhale Koothupile
Just a month after some national boxing teams faced VISA problems to enter the country to compete in the Africa Cup Boxing tournament, the problem resurfaced again this month when Cameroon failed to get VISAs to pass into Botswana for the just ended Africa Cup Group 1C rugby tournament.
The failure by Cameroon to pitch up for the games left the tournament organizers in an unenviable position of rescheduling the game fixtures. The problem has also left Cameroon in an unenviable position as they have now lost out on an opportunity to try to qualify for the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Just like in the Africa Cup Boxing tournament, the problem came when Cameroon failed to get VISAs to pass through South Africa into Botswana. Answering questions during a press conference addressed by the Confederation of African Rugby (CAR) top brass, the President of Botswana Rugby Union (BRU), Bob Lekan, said the problem lies not with Botswana but beyond its borders.
“Cameroon does not need VISAs to enter into Botswana. They, however, need VISAs to pass through South Africa and that is where the problem came from,” Lekan said.
According to Lekan, if the problem had been within Botswana, the BRU and the tournament’s Local Organising Committee (LOC) would have tried to help as they did with the Ivory Coast.
“When the Ivory Coast arrived here, we found that they had some players who had no VISAs to enter into Botswana and were stuck at the airport. We then intervened and spoke with the Ministry on their behalf and were thus allowed to pass while their VISA problems were being dealt with,” the BRU president added.
Commenting on the issue, CAR Vice President, Dave Gilbert, said the problem was not new as it had happened again in the past.
“A couple of years ago, Madagascar had the same problem when they were coming to compete and we had to ask for the minister to intervene to help them,” the CAR Vice President said.
On what needs to be done to stop the problem, the rugby bosses said at the moment there is nothing that they can do as the problem is beyond them. “All we can hope for at the moment is that the issue be communicated to the Supreme Council of Sport in Africa (SCSA) and that the relevant ministers from Africa discuss it to ensure that sportsmen who are just coming for a few days of tournaments be spared the VISA application procedure,” Lekan said. Earlier while addressing the media, CAR president, Abdelaziz Bougja said despite the challenges rugby faced, the sport is growing tremendously across the African continent. According to Bougja, since the CAR was formally registered with the International Rugby Board in 2002, the sport now has more than one million people of all ages and gender involved with the sport across the continent. He said considering the annual growth the sport is experiencing, the intention of CAR is to enhance the sport to grow to a stature where it can compare to soccer.
Commenting on the just ended CAR Africa Cup Group 1C tournament hosted by Botswana, the CAR president expressed happiness at the tournament organization saying Botswana has made a good job of hosting despite the challenges that come with the job.
The winner of the tournament proceeds to Group 1B and will get a chance to compete against the likes of Tunisia, Namibia and Senegal for a spot in Group 1A where they will compete for a spot to compete at the 2015 Rugby World Cup which is due in England.