Behind the Mask has reported that a number of South African lesbian soccer players – members of the Chosen Few teams – set to attend the Chicago Gay Games have been refused visas by the US embassy.

The teams have been awarded scholarship to attend the Games, which is scheduled to start on the 15th of July. However, seven of the twenty women have now been turned down for visas; apparently on the basis that the applicants present a high risk of not returning to South Africa.

The teams, which are an initiative of the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW), consist largely of financially beleaguered women with few resources. Fronted by Zanele Muholi from FEW, the teams have struggled to raise financing to attend the highly anticipated games.

The US embassy has been accused of being racist and discriminating against the women on the basis of class and language. One of the applicants, who does not speak English, was aggressively interviewed about her financial status with the help of a teammate and was apparently almost immediately refused a visa.

Natalie Matlou, one of the scholarship recipients who assisted the visa applicants with forms and translations at the US Embassy commented that “I don’t understand how come the very same South Africans who are working at the embassy were not able to assist us, even when we explained the importance of all of us going to the Gay Games. We were not trying to break the rules or overlook the regulations. We only requested their understanding that we are going as a team to participate in Gay Games, which is a lifetime opportunity for those players who are now declined the visas.”

FEW have vowed to lobby the US embassy to ensure that all the team-members receive a visa to attend the Games.

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