Basketball star has work permit refused

A BASKETBALL player who is 7ft2in tall may be forced to leave the country after the Home Office turned down his application for a work permit.Colchester United Basketball Club star Tendai Simbai looks likely to return to Zimbabwe unless a last-ditch attempt by his club to overturn the decision is successful.

By Danielle Nuttall

A BASKETBALL player who is 7ft2in tall may be forced to leave the country after the Home Office turned down his application for a work permit.

Colchester United Basketball Club star Tendai Simbai looks likely to return to Zimbabwe unless a last-ditch attempt by his club to overturn the decision is successful.

Tendai arrived in the UK at the age of 23 two years ago after contacting U's coach Mark Lloyd to ask for a trial - and immediately shone out in the squad.


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Tendai, who lived in Bury St Edmunds for some time after his arrival, tried to obtain a permanent work permit at the start of the summer and team officials hoped his paperwork would come through for the U's opening fixture next month.

But the devastating news that his application had been refused was revealed to the Colchester United Community Sports Trust at the weekend when the team returned for pre-season training.

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Mr Lloyd said: "We all feel absolutely terrible about what Tendai has gone through and we continue to do all that we can to keep him in this country.

"He gave up a great deal to chase his dream of playing basketball and will be criticised by many at home for what they will see as turning his back on his own country.

"He is an amazing player and with the support of his friends we organised a playing licence for him. I offered him lodgings at my own house to make it easier for him to get to training and we were all very optimistic of a great season ahead for him.

"We read of so many bad immigration stories and of people taking advantage of a situation. All this guy wants to do is play basketball, support its development in his local community and learn about life in the UK while also enhancing his coaching ability to put back into his sport when he goes home."

A spokesman for the Home Office said last night it could not comment on individual cases.

But he added: "There are strict criteria for those people who are coming into this country and making applications for work permits. Those rules have to be followed and adhered to.

"It is quite proper we have a robust, fair work permit system."

The Colchester United Community Sports Trust has taken on his plight and has agreed to write a further application in the hoping of persuading the Home Office to let the basketball star stay.

Chief executive Steve Bradshaw said: "The one vision that Tendai has is to learn and develop his game of basketball.

"He is a fantastic role model to the children we coach and for him to be able to go home proud after giving so much back to our community, taking back his new knowledge and skills is not a great deal to ask."

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