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Iroquois Lacrosse Team Misses Game in England

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The Iroquois national lacrosse team was supposed to open the world championships on Thursday night with a much-anticipated game against host country England.

Instead, the team remains stranded at a Comfort Inn in Ozone Park, Queens, denied visas by the British government and growing increasingly doubtful that it will be able to compete in the tournament at all.

What the Iroquois team had most feared for the past week — that their passport dispute with the governments of the United States and now Britain would not be resolved before their first game in the tournament — has now come to pass. The team forfeited its first contest, which had been scheduled for 7:30 p.m. local time in Manchester, England.

Team officials continued their weeklong scramble to allay British concerns over their tribal passports, on which they have traveled to past international competitions. But they reported little progress in that effort.

“We haven’t given up,” Percy Abrams, the team’s executive director, said Thursday. “We just feel like if we get to the right person, someone high up enough, something will work out for us. They have to do the right thing.”

The team’s travel plans were first thrown into question last week, when the British government said the players would not be allowed to travel on their tribal passports unless the American government provided written assurance that they would be allowed to re-enter the United States after the tournament.

Federal officials refused to do that until Wednesday morning, when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton authorized a one-time waiver clearing the way for the team to travel without United States passports, which it has refused to accept.

For a few hours, the team was all smiles, thinking that only some paperwork at the British Consulate stood between the team and its departure for England. But late Wednesday afternoon, the team was informed by British officials that it would not be granted visas after all.

That drew immediate outrage from team officials, who said the consulate had gone against its word, and from several lawmakers who had lobbied the State Department on the players’ behalf.

The U.K. Border Agency issued a statement saying that the players would be welcome to travel to England on tribal passports — but only if they also presented “established documentation” like American or Canadian passports.

That is not an acceptable option to the team, which has repeatedly said that traveling on what it considers a foreign passport would be an affront to the sovereignty of the six nations that make up the Iroquois Confederacy.

The State Department spokesman, Philip J. Crowley, said American officials had discussed the team’s situation with British officials multiple times on Wednesday and Thursday. But the British government concluded it could not make an exception to its usual immigration policies, which he said did not come as a surprise to the State Department.

”We’re satisfied that they looked at this thoroughly, but from their standpoint they made the decision they made,” Mr. Crowley told reporters in Washington. “It’s their prerogative to determine and decide who qualifies for entry into the United Kingdom.”

The Iroquois team is scheduled to play again on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. local time against Japan. Team officials said they would need to depart Kennedy Airport by Friday afternoon to have any hope of not forfeiting that game, too.

In the meantime, the team planned to play a scrimmage against a local lacrosse club in Bayville, Long Island, on Thursday night. After all, the players want to stay in shape, just in case they do find a way to get to England.

But as the hours pass, team officials concede that appears less and less likely to happen. “Our window is closing,” Mr. Abrams said.



                                               Look at the flowers

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