Gordon Williams, Contributor
Harbour View's Clyde Jureidini
Members of Harbour View Football Club (HVFC) contingent, in the United States for tomorrow's CONCACAF Champions Cup return-leg game against DC United, will meet with U.S. government officials today in America's capital.
And, according to officials, the Jamaica and Caribbean champions are hoping to further highlight a nagging issue which caused four from the club's membership to miss the trip to Washington DC after they were refused US visas in Kingston.
"We've been invited to a meeting as their guests," explained HVFC's General Manager, Clyde Jureidini, yesterday. "We will again explore about creating a policy and agreement that Jamaican national teams and club teams representing Jamaica will be allowed visas without being subjected to interviews that could lead to them being denied access to the US, "he explained.
Players Kemeel Wolfe and Rafiek Thomas, plus Equipment Manager Dwayne Blake and chef Dowayne Lawrence were, according to Jureidini, refused visas following interviews at the US embassy in late February. And although the four were invited to apply again in the future, they will be missing from the contingent for tomorrow's game.
Both striker Thomas and midfielder Wolfe played key roles in Harbour View's 1-1 first leg quarter-final draw with DC United on Wednesday. Their absence has adversely affected the team's preparations for the return leg, Harbour View officials said.
"That has hurt us very badly," said coach Lenworth Hyde yesterday.
Jureidini said that the US embassy in Kingston denied Wolfe, Thomas, Blake and Lawrence even after strong lobbying efforts from the region's governing body for football.
"We requested CONCACAF to assist us," said Jureidini. "They tried their best."
It wasn't enough.
"The embassy outlined clear and valid reasons why they were turned down," he added, although declining to specify the reasons the visas were denied.
Now Harbour View are advocating for Jamaica's government to iron out a policy with its US counterpart that will alleviate the situation in the future.
"We're appealing to the Jamaican government to appeal to US government to agree on standard policy for all sporting teams coming out of Jamaica and by extension the Caribbean," said Jureidini.
"We know there is a problem, but let's find a solution. Explore diplomatic means to have national players and club players (avoid a similar situation)."
Jureidini believes Caribbean countries or a club like Harbour View are not subjected to the same rules as clubs or national teams from the US coming to the region. The players from DC United, he cited as an example, had no visa requirements entering Jamaica for the first leg. Therefore, he added, the playing field is not level for all participants in similar sporting competitions.
"We always travel at a disadvantage," Jureidini said.
"US teams are not subjected to visa requirements or interviews," he added.
Harbour View's problems may be magnified further this year. If the team gets by DC United and with participation in the new CONCACAF Champions League, which begins in August, the club could need access to the US for its members on several more occasions.
"Within the next year we could be coming through the US anywhere from three to eight times," Jureidini said. "It could be more."
An urgent resolution is needed, the general manager added.
"You should find a way," Jureidini said.
Gordon Williams is a Jamaican journalist based in the United States.