Update 2: We have discovered that Team Thailand may have made another statement prior to the one we reported on earlier, then deleted it.
We are seeing claims that Team Thailand initially posted a different message in both English and Thai, before deleting them. On Facebook, user Sirikorn Mahasap reposted the original announcement in Thai. Even without knowledge of that, there is a clear difference in the words in the later Facebook post.
An alleged earlier version of the English announcement has also been shared on Twitter (1, 2). The alleged earlier announcement seemed to indicate the players did not know they could not compete until the preliminary bracket was announced, and that consular officers would not allow them to compete. The fact the visas are mentioned very early in the announcement may indicate they were the primary reason for their exclusion.
The full statement goes as follows:
“From the preliminary bracket’s announcement, it is confirmed that Thailand is not on the list. We have been working closely with the consulate and with Blizzard the last few weeks regarding our travel visas and negotiate until the last minute. However, consular officers are not allowing us to compete.
THAITANS players and staff, deeply regret being unable to fulfill Thai people’s dreams to see our team shine in the Overwatch World Cup’s stage this year. We also sincerely apologize to our fans, supporters, and everyone involved.
It is our wish to thank both the community and the sponsors for donating and supporting us which allowed us to reach this point. Howsoever, the remaining budget will be gladly distributed back to the community in the form of souvenirs to thank the community for the donations. (Due to the number of staffs and expenditure, souvenirs will be given only to supporters with 1,000 Baht or more donation)
All players and staff would like to apologize for the recent incident and promise that Thailand’s Overwatch team will return replete with potential and preparedness.”
Update: We have included additional sources of the player’s livestream announcement.
While BlizzCon 2019 is set to start later today (11 am PT / 2 pm ET / 6 pm GMT), drama is already unfolding as the Thailand Overwatch World Cup team have been denied participation in the tournament.
The official Twitter account for Thailand Team made the following announcement:
From the preliminaries bracket’s announcement, all players and staff, deeply regret being unable to fulfill Thai fans’ dram to see our team shine in the Overwatch World Cup this year.
We also sincerely apologize to our fans, supporters, and everyone involved. We have chosen to push this project by all means for our team to participate in the competition, and we did our best to negotiate for the team until the very last minute. It is out wish to thank both the community and the sponsors for donating and supporting us which allowed us to reach this point.
Nevertheless, the remaining budget will be gladly distributed back to the community in the form of souvenirs to thank the community for the donation. However, due to the quantity of staff and expenditure, souvenirs will be given only to supporters with 1,000 Baht or more donations.
All players and staff would like to apologize for the recent incident and promise that Thailand’s Overwatch team will return replete with potential and preparedness.
As such, Team Thailand did not partake in any of the preliminary games.
Rumor as to why the team cannot compete has begun to circulate on social media. According to Blognone, “when representatives of the Thai national team traveling to the Overwatch World Cup 2019 in the United States of America cannot compete. Due to visa issues that cannot be revealed.”
They claim the player’s stated the following during their livestream, explaining the situation. Allegedly, while the US Embassy and Blizzard staff worked together to help produce the visas the team and their staff required, upon arriving at BlizzCon the team was told they could not compete due to their visas being the wrong type. The team maintains their visas are the correct ones.
“Through coordination between the US Embassy and the Blizzard staff, they obtained a visa on October 29, 2019 and departed the next day. But when the Thai national team traveled to register to report with Blizzard, they were notified that the Thai national team was unable to compete for visa reasons. Which if allowing the Thai national team to compete Will affect both Thai national players and Blizzard players who will travel to compete in esports in the United States in the future. With players from Thailand not knowing that they can not compete
The Thai national team has confirmed that they have obtained the correct visa type B1-B2, but cannot reveal the details of the cause of the problem at this time.”
Visa B1 is for business, while Visa B2 is for tourism, both classing as a visitor visa. Those that hold a B2 visa may be involved in “participation by amateurs in musical, sports, or similar events or contests, if not being paid for participating”. However, neither visa allows “paid performances, or any professional performance before a paying audience.”
Details are still sketchy, with rumors ranging from Blizzard staff requesting the Thailand team not to disclose the issue publicly, and rampant speculation if this has anything to do with Blizzard’s Chinese business interests.
Blizzard Entertainment have been in hot water since their suspension of pro-Hearthstone player Blitzchung for his support of the Hong Kong protests, and their overall handing of the entire debacle.
Blizzard finally released a statement, revealing they had returned Blitzchung’s confiscated prize money and reduced his suspension time. The statement also claimed that “relationships in China had no influence on our decision” (We recently looked into Blizzard’s financials to see if that was the case).
We have contacted Blizzard, and will update you as we learn more.