One-way ticket to Tokyo: Refugee boxer Sella leaves Trinidad for Olympics, no approval to return

Venezuelan boxer Eldric Sella. Photo courtesy UNHCR
Venezuelan boxer Eldric Sella. Photo courtesy UNHCR

ELDRIC Sella’s Olympic dream will become a reality as he left Trinidad on Tuesday for Tokyo, but it is uncertain when the boxer will return to this country as he did not get the necessary approval to return.

For the last few weeks, there has been a level of uncertainty surrounding Sella’s appearance at the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games. Sella, who was born in Venezuela, was chosen to represent the Olympic Refugee Team as a middleweight (75kg) boxer.

This is the second time an Olympic Refugee Team will compete at the Olympics.

Sella left Trinidad on Tuesday for Guyana which will be his first stop on his way to Japan.

Sella, 24, is set to be one of 29 athletes competing in 12 disciplines in the Olympics which run from Friday to August 8. Sella has been living in TT since 2018.

As a refugee living in Trinidad Sella required an exemption from the Ministry of National Security to leave Trinidad and return.

Despite leaving for Japan, Newsday was reliably informed that Sella has not received approval from the Government to return to TT. On Wednesday, Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds confirmed this to Newsday.

Asked if everything is in place for Sella to return to TT, Hinds said, “No I don’t think his documents are in order to come back to Trinidad. He did leave Trinidad yesterday (Tuesday) as far as I learnt...I, therefore, wish him well and every success in his endeavour.”

Explaining what is required of Sella to return to TT, Hinds said, “If he wants to return he makes an application. We now have a visa requirement in place with Venezuela which we introduced pretty recently because of the heavy number of Venezuelans coming here. We had no restrictions, but now we have a visa requirement. Any Venezuelan wanting to come into Trinidad now must of course apply for a visa as we do when we go to other countries and it will be considered and granted or not granted as the authorities think fit.”

Hinds said he is uncertain if Sella had a passport when he left Trinidad.

Sella’s relationship with TT began in 2017 when he travelled to TT for multiple boxing events. He was then invited by the World Boxing Council (WBC) to complete two short courses under the council’s programme to enhance his boxing skills.

He later applied to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to stay in TT.

Chairman of the WBC’s amateur/world youth professional programme for Central America and the Caribbean Buxo Potts believes Sella has the potential to medal at the Olympics.

In an interview with Newsday in early July, Potts said, “When he came here to box he came here on a WBC card and I saw the potential in him.”

Potts, a boxing promoter in TT, said Sella made an immediate impression.

“He was sparring with (TT boxer) Sheldon Lawrence and he was beating the life out of Sheldon Lawrence. He was really giving Sheldon Lawrence a rough time.

“I said, ‘You are definitely special.’”

Potts said once Sella’s conditioning is up to standard he could deliver in Tokyo. “I am thinking that the talent he has, (as) long as he could make the condition that is required to execute on his talent, he could definitely medal.”

Potts said Sella’s father was integral in his success.

“He is a very skilful trainer.”

Describing the Venezuelan’s boxing style, Potts said, “Sella can mix it up and he can be technical, and that’s some of the attributes that he can bring to the ring. He can read a fighter’s move and skilfully counter move. He is a good counter puncher…he can brawl if it comes to that and then he can step back out and box.

“I think they will have a lot of problems with him out there…he is a good fighter.”

Potts said on Wednesday he is disappointed Sella had to leave Trinidad so late and he may suffer from jet lag.

A statement by UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi last month, said, “They (Refugee Olympic Team) are an exceptional group of people who inspire the world. UN Refugee Agency is incredibly proud to support them as they compete at the Tokyo Olympics. Surviving war, persecution and the anxiety of exile already makes them extraordinary people, but the fact that they now also excel as athletes on the world stage fills me with immense pride.”

Grandi is also vice-chairman of the Olympic Refuge Foundation.


"One-way ticket to Tokyo: Refugee boxer Sella leaves Trinidad for Olympics, no approval to return"

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