Visa troubles for touch player means five extra days in Malaysia
A visa glitch left touch rugby player Samoauatasi Tolovaa unable to fly out of Malaysia with the rest of his team following the Touch World Cup in Kuala Lumpur.
Unlike the rest of the delegation of players, Mr. Tolova'a from the men’s team booked his ticket and issued his visas independently, to organise a two-week stay in Australia with his family on the journey back to Samoa.
So while his teammates filed onto the plane in Kuala Lumpur International Airport, he was denied boarding because his visa only allowed a single-entry into Australia, which he used on the way over.
“I was worried and shocked because when we came to the Malaysia airport, and they checked me, I was not able to return to Australia,” Mr Tolovaa said.
“But I put it to God, and there was a person who could help me, a Samoan woman. So the rest of the team went back to Samoa to try help me return to Australia.”
The Samoan woman was Tosi Lam, who is now a Malaysian resident. She came to all the games the Samoan team played during the week, and exchanged contact details with some of the players.
So when they called asking for a roof over Mr Tolovaa’s head, she was happy to help. He stayed with them for five days.
“I was so happy they took me in,” he said.
“With those five days I just stayed at their house and helped out with some housework while I waited for the visa.”
Mr. Tolovaa is no rookie to overseas travel. He has played touch rugby for 10 years, and represented Samoa on five trips abroad.
“But this was the first time this has happened to me,” he said, laughing a little.
Mailata Michael Wulf, President of Samoa Touch Rugby Incorporated said his organisation should have been the one to check the details of everyone’s tickets and visas.
“It’s been a big learning for us,” he said.
But his story was not a complete tragedy as the Australian High Commission in Samoa and the Samoan Embassy in Canberra helped expedite a visa for Mr Tolovaa.
And in the end Mr Tolovaa got to spend a week in Australia after all, and is now back in Samoa, in time for the Pacific Games squad trials this weekend.