Winning 11-0 in the final game at nationals in Quebec, it was jubilation for Whalley’s Little League team.
All, except for one kid.
While his teammates celebrated booking their trip to the Little League World Series in Williamsport Pennsylvania, 13-year-old Dio Gama was in tears.
“When the game finished, he came to me, he was crying,” said his father, Noe Gama, in an interview with TSN 1040 on Wednesday.
Dio was crying because he found out three days earlier that he wouldn’t be able to play in the World Series due to visa issues surrounding due to his father’s criminal history.
Noe, who is originally from Mexico, was convicted on a drug charge in the United States in 1997, receiving 60-months in prison before being deported back to his home country to complete his sentence. He was released in 2001 and travelled to Canada in 2008 on a visitor visa, before claiming refugee protection.
His status remains unclear.
Dio was born in the United States, as was one of his siblings. His other sibling was born in Canada. The family’s lawyer advised Dio not to leave the country because there was a chance he would not be let back into Canada.
“He was broken into a thousand pieces,” Noe added. “I told him, enjoy the moment. What can I say? It still hurts.
“He looked at me into my eyes and said ‘Dad, I’m not going to represent my country.’ It’s hard. It’s hard for me and it’s hard for him.”
Whalley Little League, based in Surrey, British Columbia, put out a statement on Facebook, supporting their teammate:
“Sadly, one of the teammates has had to return home and couldn’t make the trip to Williamsport,” the statement said. “At Whalley Little League, we are all the league. Including families trying to make a new start.
“There is a 13-year-old boy who wants to follow his dream playing at the World Series. He is doing all the right things in life but is caught by his immigration status. We just want to find a way to let him play. There must be a way through immigration that we can get a boy to Williamsport with his team and back to rejoin his brothers (Team Canada). Team Canada and Little League await his return.
“Let the boy play.”
The Little League World Series, which begins on Thursday, features 16 teams from nine countries, with games broadcast nationally on ESPN in the United States and on TSN in Canada.
Whalley, competing as Team Canada, play their first game on Friday against a team from Panama, representing Latin America at 3 pm PT / 6 pm ET.
*Update: The Canadian government has stepped in, allowing Dio to play.