SL chess players miss World Junior Chess event after Italian Embassy snub them

by Reemus Fernando

Sri Lanka team including top-ranked national player Susal de Silva who is aspiring to become the country’s first Grand Master have missed the vital opportunity of taking part in the World Junior Chess Championships in Italy after the Italian Embassy in Colombo denied the young chess players appointments for visa interviews The Island learns.

According to sources, requests from the Chess Federation of Sri Lanka, the Sports Ministry, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to get appointments for young chess players and their parents to meet visa officers of the Italian Embassy have fallen on deaf ears.

Sri Lanka team inclusive of Nalanda College prodigy de Silva, Nabil Nazar and Desandi Gamage were supposed to compete at the FIDE World Junior (U-20) Chess Championship 2022 in Sardinia, Italy from October 11 to 23.

The Chess Federation of Sri Lanka (on September 19) had forwarded the required documents to obtain visas following the receipt of invitations from the sport’s world governing body, while the Sports Ministry (on September 21) and the Foreign Ministry (on September 22) too have made relevant correspondence requesting speedy appointments.

One of the parents speaking to The Island said that they were ill-treated by the embassy officials when they visited the office in Colombo. With two members of the team returning to Sri Lanka on September 19 after attending the World Youth Chess Championship in Romania the parents visited the Italian Embassy on September 22.

“On September 22nd we were told that there was an audit going on at the Embassy. We were asked to come on September 26. On the 26th after checking the documents the visa officer informed us that we needed to provide the applications of the three players as minors and that all the parents should come to sign a document. Though I informed them that the parents were available at the location and we could do it within 30 minutes time, the officer asked us to come on the next day. Again on September 28th we visited the Embassy. After two hours the security personnel returned the application form asking us to come on September 29 saying that the visa officer has informed us that they couldn’t process applications on that day,” said one of the parents.

Our attempts to contact officials of the Italian Embassy yesterday were found futile.

Asked whether there was a delay on his part to apply for visas for the young players, Luxman Wijesuriya, the President of the Chess Federation of Sri Lanka said that he followed the usual procedure and the federation had never failed to obtain visas for players on any previous occasion. “We applied for the event before the deadline closed and applied for visas after receiving the invitations,” said Wijesuriya.

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