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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 11 March, 2003, 16:43 GMT
Moldovans snorkel to new life
Underwater hockey players - image CBC
Underwater hockey could become an Olympic sport
Some people will try anything to get to an affluent Western country to start a new life - risking their lives in creaking container ships or stifling trucks.

But a group of Moldovans appears to have found a rather more elaborate means of migration - by posing as a national team in the little-known sport of women's underwater hockey.

According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, a people-smuggler from the former Soviet republic came up with the idea of making prospective migrants look like underwater hockey players to get them visas for Canada.

Underwater hockey, which aspires to Olympic status, involves two teams of six players in flippers and snorkels passing a puck along the bottom of a swimming pool.

Egypt trip

An inside source known only as "Deep Trout", whose identity was hidden by a diver's mask, told CBC that the women knew nothing about underwater hockey and some could not even swim.

Deep Trout - image CBC
Deep Trout said the women paid $1,200 to get to Canada
But she said that the smuggler had taken the would-be sportswomen on a trip to Egypt so that they had stamps in their passports suggesting they had been in training there.

Each woman paid $1,200 to get to Canada, Deep Trout said.

They disappeared after entering Canada, and failed to show up at the championships.

"We had their flag ready for the opening ceremonies and they weren't there," Myrna Kruger, who attended the championships, told CBC.

Corruption

The network traced two of the alleged illegal immigrants to the city of Winnipeg, but they refused to comment on how they reached Canada.

Underwater hockey puck - image CBC
Underwater hockey involves passing a puck along a pool floor
The alleged scam has raised questions about Moldova's underwater sporting world.

But the Moscow Times newspaper quoted Nikolay Zhuravsky, president of the Moldovan Olympic Committee, as saying that the team did not exist.

Moldova entered a team once before for underwater hockey, this time men, in the 2000 championships in Hobart, Australia.

On this occasion, the team did play, but was soundly beaten by Colombia and Argentina.

The Australian newspaper reported that all the players later applied for and received asylum.

Underwater hockey is not the first sport to be accused of harbouring asylum seekers.

When Sierra Leone sent a 30-strong team of athletes to last year's Commonwealth Games in the UK, only nine returned home, the rest having vanished during the trip.


SEE ALSO:
What next for the Olympics?
26 Aug 02 |  Funny Old Game
Country profile: Moldova
07 Mar 03 |  Country profiles


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