Anxious visa wait for Somalia bandy team
The hopes and dreams of becoming the first ever African nation to take part in this month's World Bandy Championships in Siberia could be dashed for a group of Somali refugees living in Sweden. The journey from the small town of Borlänge in central Sweden to the World Bandy Championships in Irkutz in Siberia is to become a film and TV series and has attracted worldwide publicity. But the story seems set for a dramatic final twist with the news that the players have not received visas to travel to Russia.
Patrik Andersson is the leader of the social integration project which began as a way of building bridges between Swedes and immigrants. He says to Radio Sweden that the visa process has taken more time than actually teaching the players how to play the sport.
"We still have problems with the visas but we have a good plan to make sure we manage to get them before we go to Russia," Andersson says.
Andersson says that it will be at least another 4-6 days before they get the visas, but that they have a back up plan should the process drag on longer.
"If there are still problems next week, we have contact with the Russian leader of the Federation of International Bandy who will help us out. Russia wants us to be a part of the World Championships so they will help us, I'm absolutely sure of it," Andersson says.
The team trains in Börlange, home to 3,000 Somali refugees and is also home to one of Sweden's greatest bandy players, Per Fosshaug. He now trains the Somali bandy team and is still hopeful that they will be in Siberia to play their first match against Japan.
"I am obviously a little nervous. I try to keep up appearances. We have done everything we can and I really do not know what we could have done differently. But what happens to all the filming if we are not going away, I dare not even think about it," he told TT.
The Somalia bandy squad is due to travel with their skates to Russia on 25 January and is scheduled to meet Japan, Ukraine and Germany at the World Championships between 27-29 January.
Sweden, Russia and Finland have traditionally been the nations to beat in Bandy, which is similar to ice hockey but is played with a small ball on large outdoor rinks.