Pro-Gaming and Travel – Visa Hell
One of the best and worst things about participating in a pro sport of any sort is the travel. Yes, you get to see new places, experience new cultures and meet new people, but there are also hours wasted in boring airports, asleep in uncomfortable plane seats and more – not everything about it is pleasant.
When it comes to esports, things are actually a little bit worse still. While there are usually specific channels to go through for gaining access to new countries for traditional sporting events, this isn’t always the case for esports pros. The main issue here are visas – gaining permission to enter a country for a competition is, well, a must: After all, if you can’t attend a competition, you’ll struggle to compete in it.
This has been an issue more than once – recently, at a StarLadder Dota 2 event, two teams very nearly couldn’t participate in an event because of visa issues. Some of the players were of Russian nationality. The event itself took place in the Ukraine – because of the high political tensions in the region, these players were affected, despite having no relation at all to the decades-old tensions between the countries.
Other examples include Thai Overwatch player Teetawat Teerayosyotin – he plays tank for an Australian team, the Sydney Drop Bears, yet still wasn’t able to enter Australia in order to participate at an event with his team – while the Dota 2 players were eventually allowed to play, Teetawat’s team had to come up with a replacement to take his spot, significantly affecting their performance, of course – the team is used to, well, teamwork after all!
Australia in particular struggles with this issue – while many European countries have begun recognising esports players as athletes and have given them access to the same visa paths a footballer may have, Australia has been slow to follow suit and hasn’t yet adjusted to this. The IEM Sydney event is a perfect example. The FaZe Clan’s star player Nikola “Niko” Kovac couldn’t participate in the event since his visa application for Austalia had not being processed in time. Almost the same fate for his teammate Dauren “AdreN” Kystaubayev who was unable to play their opening match against Chiefs.
That said, it certainly isn’t just Australia that struggles here – two Vietnamese teams that qualified for a PUBG tournament were forced to withdraw from a Southeast Asian championship because they couldn’t get visas. This was despite the fact that both teams received invitations and guarantees, had their application and priority fees paid for, and so on.
They were denied permission from the UK High Commission in New Delhi, and ultimately had to withdraw from the London competition. With but a week left to go, other teams will now have to take their place – naturally, outrage among fans is running high, given that these players were disqualified because of something completely unrelated to the esport itself.
Another Dota 2 team also suffered a loss because of Visa troubles – Team Empire’s sayuw (a Russian player) couldn’t get a visa for a Paris-based competition and left their team one man short. While they were able to get a stand-in for him, the same issue remains – a working team composition is broken up because of political issues that have little to nothing to do with the players!