After a promising start to 2020, Olympic hopeful Cappis now stuck in limbo
September 15, 2020
EARLIER THIS YEAR, it looked as if Christian Cappis was one of many young American players poised for a breakout season. The Texan was a called up to the U.S. national team for January camp, he was in the mix for the U-23 Olympic team, and was a starter for his Danish club, Hobro IK.
Throughout the entire 2019/20 season, Hobro was involved in a fierce relegation battle to remain in the Danish Superliga. The club’s tough predicament wasn’t necessarily because it was poor on the field. It lost only nine out of 26 regular season games. Only three teams in the Superliga lost fewer games.
The problem for Hobro is that it struggled to win as it won just three times in the 26 games and drew 14 times. Hobro was almost always competitive but it couldn’t find its winning edge and eventually it was relegated via the playoff rounds.
During that time, Cappis was one of the team’s best players. It was widely speculated that due to his youth (having turned 21 last month, in August) and the team’s now relegated status, Cappis would earn a transfer. Reportedly, there was interest in him throughout much of the season.
But since the end of the season, things have been an absolute nightmare for Cappis. The COVID shutdown has decimated the transfer market for many clubs and many clubs in the middle-European leagues have significantly less money to spend.
In an even more bizarre turn of events, mistakes were made in the handling of the work visa for Cappis and he now finds himself back in Texas after being deported from Denmark. It all started after he returned from summer break and was with Hobro for preseason.
“The first time I realized my visa was expired was in July before the summer holiday when I was getting flights to go home for the break,” Cappis told ASN from Texas. “I talked with the director about my visa and I asked if it was still good. He said, yes and that it should be good for the duration of the contract and that the visa duration was linked to the contract length - they go together. I went home that day and checked it - it expired December 2019.”
Following this Cappis immediately took a picture of the visa and sent it to the sporting director and asked what needed to be done. The club began assembling a new application for him and after a few weeks was able to file it with the proper authorities. This was completed towards the end of July.
But when Cappis returned to Denmark for preseason after a stateside visit for his offseason break, things quickly spiraled out of control.
“We were two weeks into preseason, I got a call from the director and that they just heard from the police. The director told me I was not allowed to train or play in games because the visa was expired and I was illegally working.”
At this point, Cappis was confused. His name is on the visa but typically clubs handle work visas for foreign players. After realizing the police were now involved, Cappis understood that the matter was far more complicated than he expected.
To make matters worse, the club distanced itself from Cappis at a time when he needed clarity – while being stuck in a foreign country.
“The day after the director called me, I had to go back to the club so that I could scan my passport for the police,” Cappis explained. “From that point after I scanned it, they told me to go home and that I was done there. I just went home and was like - 'what do I do now?' I didn't realize it was so serious because they were so calm and playing it down. They were talking to the police and then telling me to figure it out.”
“The police came to my apartment a few days later to do their investigation on what happened,” he continued. “They officially charged me with being in the country illegally and working in the country illegally - two separate charges. They said that they could see I wasn't a criminal and that I didn't do this and that it wasn't my fault. But they told me that if my name was on the visa, I would be the one punished - they said they couldn't look the other way because laws were broken, even if by mistake.”
“From there, I hadn't heard from the club for awhile,” he added. “I was kind of on my own. I was just kind of pushed off to the side. They didn't tell me to train or run. I had to go out and find a personal trainer by myself - who my agent helped find. I had to do that stuff by myself. I wasn't given anything to do. I was doing the best I could to stay fit. I just thought this would resolve itself. The club was telling me that there was nothing to worry about.”
But there turned out to be plenty to worry about. About a week after the police came to his apartment, charged him, and confiscated his passport, he received a call from the sporting director at Hobro who told him that he had to meet with the police on the upcoming Monday.
Cappis met with the police that day but the following day he received a call from the Danish immigration office that said he had seven days to leave the country and that he could not return until his new application is approved. While that process is underway, there is no timetable for its completion.
“I immediately called the club,” Cappis said. “I told them that I was being deported and asked what are we going to do? They asked for me to give them two days to figure it out. Two days went by and I didn't hear anything from anybody. But that point I had to leave. I wasn't going to push that seven-day limit based on the trouble I was already in.”
Now back in Texas, Cappis says he hears from the club “quite a bit” despite not having heard much from them during key periods of the process that led to his deportation. He is confused on how the process has led to this point after he trusted that the club would handle the visa process for him – as a young, foreign player from outside the European Union.
During this period, Cappis has an attorney working on his behalf to better understand the everyone's respective obligations under the contract. He is also exploring ways to stay fit while in the United States. Hobro IK has sped up the process of trying to figure out to bring Cappis back. On the field, the team has begun its new season in the second tier poorly with just one point from its first two games.
There is also the possibility that Cappis could still get sold or loaned out but he understands that the longer he goes without playing or formal training, the less likely clubs will be interested – at least to pay Hobro’s asking price.
“I've come back here but I have to go to New York at some point to do the next step for this process - fingerprints and biometrics and stuff,” Cappis said. “But going to New York there is a 14-day quarantine. We're figuring out how to do that. That is what the process has been to this point. Now it is just kind of waiting to see what happens now.”