Sunday, June 16, 2024

Siddik decries visa woes

Persistent visa problems have left Bangladesh’s golfing icon Siddikur Rahman’s schedules in total disarray as he is facing uncertainty over his participation in many tournaments.
Siddik left Dhaka on Monday to participate in the $7,50,000 Macau Open, to be held at the former Portuguese colony from September 15 to 18. After the tournament, he will be heading for Japan to play in the $17,00,000 Asia Pacific Panasonic Open, slated at Biwako Country Club, Shiga from September 22 to 25.
But Siddik said he had to toil hard to ensure his participation in both of these high-profile Asian Tour tournaments.
‘I had to take my passport back from the UK High Commission today to seek a Japanese visa. Thank god, Japan processed my visa in a day which enabled me to participate in these two back-to-back tournaments,’ Siddik told New Age prior to his departure.
‘But I am not always that lucky.  Most of the foreign embassies in Dhaka do not entertain a request for quick visa processing.
‘I had been trying for a UK visa for the last few days for the $5 million Dunhill tournament [Alfred Dunhill Link Championship] but was only left waiting in the queue.
‘I had no choice but to withdraw my passport as otherwise I was going to miss the Japan tournament. I don’t know now what will happen about my participation in the Dunhill tournament. If I miss the tournament that will be a huge shock for me,’ said Siddik, who currently ranks second in the Asian order of merit.
Siddik added that the Alfred Dunhill Link Championship at the world famous Old Course St Andrews in Scotland starting from September 29 is a prestigious European Tour tournament where only the top five Asians golfers are given an entry.
‘You can say that my participation in this tournament is very much uncertain.  Now I have to fly back to Dhaka for a British visa or will have to obtain it from Japan. I am not sure if it is possible to get a UK visa from a third country,’ he said.
‘If I have to run after visas all the time then when will I practise and how I will do well in the tournaments?,’ asked Siddik.
Missing a tournament due to visa complications, however, is nothing new for Siddik. Only this week, he missed the ISPS Handa Singapore Classic for the same reason.
‘I was in Switzerland for the Omega Masters, so I could not apply for the Singaporean visa and had to miss the tournament.’
Siddik, the first professional golfer from Bangladesh to win an Asian Tour event, still regrets missing the US PGA qualification for the same problem earlier this year.
‘I was given a US visa finally and that too for a period of five years. But by the time I got it, it was too late to participate in the US PGA qualification,’ said Siddik, a former ball boy at the Kurmitola Golf Club, who went on to take the world by surprise, winning the Brunei Open in 2010.
Siddik, however, does not have any solution to his unusual predicament.
‘No top golfer in the world faces this kind of problem. Most of them are from the developed countries and do not even require a visa in most cases.  Even if they need it, they are granted one upon their arrival at the airport,’ he said.
‘For some of us, acquiring a visa is a must to visit almost every country. I have seen some Thai golfers having diplomatic passports which made it possible for them to get on-arrival visas in most countries.
‘I don’t know if it is possible for me to get a diplomatic passport. I would request the government to look into the matter. If they can do this, it will be of tremendous help,’ said Siddik, adding that the visa problem has also hampered his training significantly.
‘Recently I have appointed an Indian coach and I need to visit him regularly. But you know getting an Indian visa is another hassle. I need to apply online and face an interview on a stipulated date.  
‘But I cannot do it all the time and as a result, I am missing valuable training opportunities. I am paying money to my coach as he is under an annual contract, but I am not getting the necessary services from him,’ he said.


Courtesy of New Age

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