Cover image source: @Pparasel
The 33 visa incident has definitely been a rude awakening for the Dota 2 ecosystem and while the problem isn’t necessarily new, it does shine the spotlight on something that has been an issue in esports for a while now.
For those who are unaware, Neta ‘33’ Shapira is not attending the Kuala Lumpur Major with NiP as he couldn’t secure his visa on time. Due to this, the team is fielding TI7 winner, Mind_Control as a standin.
Despite Valve’s efforts towards ensuring that the dates and event locations are made known well beforehand so that teams have enough time to apply for visas, the blame for this incident cannot really go to either party. As it stands, Israel and Malaysia have a difficult diplomatic relationship which makes it really hard for, or near impossible to get a visa.
NiP’s captain PPD’s plea that the team not incur a DPC points penalty was heard by Valve who have decided to step in and remove the penalty rule for this particular incident, however, the whole incident is not just about DPC points and has bigger implications and consequences.
Unfortunately, every visa situation seems to be unique, from simple mistakes like errors in the form to complicated ones like diplomatic ties between 2 countries. Things like language barriers and visa interviews are often not easy for players from regions with weaker passports. The timeline between the qualifiers and the actual event has also been worked upon by Valve to allow players as much time as possible, even then the bureaucratic nature of the process often means that teams only have one or at best 2 chances of clearing the interview.
And it’s not just players, even talent has faced this problem, with Admiralbulldog failing to attend both TI7 and TI8 due to visa problems.
Even recently, Sumail and Yawar, both of whom hold Pakistani passports couldn’t attend ESL One Hamburg for similar reasons. But even then, every situation always seems to be unique. Sometimes it's the orgs'/players' faults for clerical errors in the forms and paperwork. Sometimes, teams start the process too late. It can also be the TO’s fault to an extent, when there isn’t enough government backing or legitimacy behind the event for the visa officers to take the case seriously. At TI7 for example, Valve themselves were unable to secure business visas for the talent, leading to Bulldog’s absence. And sometimes, it’s just off everyone’s hands as was evident in the 33 case.
One increasingly likely possibility of the persistent visa issues, is that orgs and teams will stop recruiting players from weaker regions like the Middle Eastern countries, Africa, most of the Asian countries and to an extent even South America. While the majority of the scene does revolve around NA, EU, CIS and China, players like Gh, Miracle and Yapzor would have never made it to the pro level if orgs had to worry so much about these things.
It isn’t necessarily the organization’s fault either as they have to do their best to protect the interests of the team and the other players. A 40% points deduction is actually quite massive for teams placing in the top 5 at a Major and no org can be blamed for not wanting to take that risk. The NiP issue has been handled for now, and while we can always hope for the best, there is no guarantee that Valve will apply the same treatment if this happens another time.