Depending on the game, an eSports athlete’s life can be very hectic and full of travel or somewhat monotonic. For the players who have to travel a lot all over the world in order to compete, the visa issue is one of the most sensitive topics. This has been brought up recently, when Cloud9’s founder and CEO Jack Etienne let the community know that his team is having trouble getting Brazilian visas to compete in ESL Pro League Final, which is set to take place in São Paulo, on October 28th-30th. He asked for any help to make it happen.
Cloud9, the only team to have qualified for the tournament so far, is probably the first one to try and secure their visas. If they are having trouble, it will be practically impossible for the rest of the teams that qualify. Probably the only players to NOT have trouble getting to the tournament are likely to be SK Gaming and Immortals, because the players on their roster are actually native to Brazil. What about the rest? Well, they are fucked.
This looks to be a huge coordination blunder on the side of ESL. As pointed out on a report on this issue in DailyDot, there are some extenuating circumstances. When the decision to hold the finals in São Paulo was made, the Rio Olympics were taking place, resulting in looser restrictions on visas. It’s likely that the organizers didn’t think to check whether the travel protocols for Brazil will change after the Olympic Games are over. Well, they did change.
Because the United States of America requires a visa from Brazilians, the same is required of them in turn. When Rio 2016 was taking place, Brazil wanted as many people as possible to visit, the restrictions were lowered, but now that’s over and done with. You can’t even be mad about it, that’s only fair.
Why don’t the European teams have problems like this? Most players in EU teams come from Western European countries like France, Ukraine, Russia, or Scandinavian countries like Sweden. All of these countries have visa exemptions with Brazil, also allowing Brazilians to travel without visas as well. Sometimes, it’s good to be European. Unless your continent is playing in League of Legends Worlds. Of course, you’re not much better off if you’re from the US either.
What are the possible repercussions of this oversight? Assuming C9 might be able to push through and get their visas in time, while SK and Immortals qualify for the Final, NA will have three teams there, unless ESL or some other actor gets up to some truly awe-inspiring heroics and starts shouting “You get a visa! You get a visa! You get a visa too! In fact, EVERYONE gets visas!”. How likely is that to happen? Not very. It’s very possible that after competing for weeks to qualify for the $750,000 tournament, none of the NA teams would be able to go. That would put a terrible black mark on the Pro League brand’s forehead. Stuff like this should not happen, not when there’s 3/4 of a $1,000,000 at stake.