Politics and pride at the World Lacrosse
It came as a sad surprise, travelling to Manchester for the World Lacrosse Championships, to learn that the Iroquois team would not get there in time for their opening game against England.
What's worse is that it seems to have been a surprise for the Iroquois, too.
The Native Americans were barred from entering the UK because British immigration officials do not recognise their Iroquois Confederacy passports, and the team refuse to register for American or Canadian passports on principle.
Talks between the various parties are ongoing and the Iroquois - credited with helping to invent the sport of lacrosse - may yet make an appearance at the first World Championships to be held in Europe.
But while the mood in Manchester is one of sadness that such a respected team are missing out, even the rain hasn't dampened a colourful, vibrant tournament and a sport nothing like the one some casual spectators expect to see.
"First and foremost [we feel] enormous disappointment for the Iroquois. Their players will be hugely disappointed not to have made the trip," said Tom Wenham, defensive coach for the English team, playing as hosts for the first time.
"But it's a huge surprise if I'm honest. Our understanding from our own international travel is that the details are sorted out well in advance. We don't know enough about what's gone on and why the issue has come about. We're just really sorry for those guys that it has."
The Iroquois have travelled abroad with their passports before, most notably to Australia for the 2002 World Championships, but rules governing passports have recently tightened in North America, and Britain says it is abiding by that tougher legislation.
This, however, appears not to have been communicated to the Iroquois, and nor do they seem to have been proactive in checking their travel arrangements in the weeks and months leading up to the tournament.
The Iroquois may yet turn up if an agreement can be found. In their absence, Germany were promoted to the tournament's top division to face England on opening night, suffering a 12-3 pounding at the hands of the hosts in miserable Manchester weather. If nothing else, the Iroquois got to stay dry for a few more days.
The show goes on without them and, while the World Lacrosse is making the news for the wrong reasons, that should not spoil the moment for an England team with a real chance of winning a medal.
After their resounding opening victory, I spent a morning with the English players as they enjoyed a "rest day", watching the golf on TV, in a student dormitory given over for their use.
Two themes developed, the first being the lack of understanding of their sport in this country.
"Not a great deal of people know their lacrosse. And if they do, they know ladies' lacrosse, which is a very, very different sport," said Mark Reynolds, a veteran of 13 years in an England jersey and one of the team's two captains.
"We use sticks and a ball like the ladies, but men's lacrosse is very much more physical. Women's lacrosse is like hockey, men's lacrosse is like ice hockey."
"They've either seen the girl's game and think it's soft, or they think it's played with fishing nets," added goalkeeper Ben McAllister.
"According to [team-mate] Tom Williamson the game is like quidditch, but I'm not convinced of that. You just get to hit people with sticks and throw a ball pretty fast."
Williamson, a 23-year-old England defender, rebuffs this attack on his theory: "I'm trying to get it out to the young people of the world! Harry Potter is well-known and quidditch is fast... throwing a ball about... it's very similar.
"Obviously you're not on a broomstick. Apart from that, yeah."
Lacrosse genuinely is jaw-droppingly physical at times, with sticks swinging into flesh and players collapsing into heaps of limbs. All male participants wear helmets and padding, and crashing into opponents is part and parcel of the game.
But aside from the misconceptions people have about their sport, the thing on every England player's mind is the cost of keeping their love for the game alive.
This is a common theme across many sports, and one I've heard from many Olympic athletes too: huge sacrifices and a vast financial outlay, in pursuit of a sport few people know exists and even fewer watch. But Olympic sports, and others like cricket and rugby, carry a recognition and reward that lacrosse players will simply never get in the UK.
Where Olympic hopefuls can dream of open-top bus parades and the freedom of Mansfield if they bring home a gold medal, the best England's lacrosse stars can wish for is a news-in-brief mention if they win the World Championships. Lacrosse did of course feature prominently in the media this week, but only as a result of the passport dispute, not on its own merits.
"Having lacrosse on the homepage of the BBC Sport website was great for us," says Reynolds. "I've always been looking out for it, hoping it would get a mention on there, but it never has done. For it to be on there is great, but obviously the circumstances were bad news."
Then again, if Reynolds and Co wanted their sporting achievements acknowledged, they wouldn't have chosen lacrosse in the first place. Most of these athletes were good at sports like football or cricket, too. Pursuing lacrosse was a choice they made.
"I'm not full-time - I wish. I have to work, but my employers are understanding and the other thing is having an understanding girlfriend, that's helped," says Reynolds.
"It's incredibly frustrating: not only do we have to give up all of our spare time, we then have to pay for it all. I've been involved with the England squad for 13 years now, and I've spent around £10,000 playing for England. This championship, all in, is maybe £3,000 to play in. It's a massive drain."
Reynolds is one of the lucky ones, though. Only 23 players are allowed in each squad for the Worlds, and a number of his England team-mates were not selected - despite having paid their way up to that point, too. Already thousands of pounds out of pocket, they must now buy tickets on the door to see their luckier counterparts play.
Not that lacrosse is entirely unfunded. As a sport, it will receive £2.2m from Sport England between 2009 and 2013, but the England team say this is channelled into grass-roots lacrosse, and does not reach the elite squad. There is no financial incentive for winning the world title.
For 20-year-old Mancunian Sam Russell, the sport has cost vast sums - but it has also changed his life.
"I play at an American university now," he says. "One of my coaches here was also the headmaster at a school in Ohio, and he asked me to go over there, so for the last four months of my A-level year I studied abroad, playing lacrosse and looking for opportunities at the same time. I moved to Whittier College, in California, the year after."
Russell now plays on a lacrosse scholarship while studying in the US. He says it's a dream come true - "10 years ago, I'd have laughed in your face if you told me this" - but it comes at a price.
"I owe my parents a lot, they've made a lot of sacrifices to help me in this sport. The university I go to costs about $40,000 a year, but scholarships and the exchange rate bring that down dramatically so it's similar to going to a UK university. But, at the same time, you don't get any student loan, and obviously you have to fund your place in the England team as well.
"My parents made a lot of sacrifices to help me in this sport. I'll have to pay them back... one day. I've got a job now. I'm a white van man! I drive round West Didsbury and do a bit of property maintenance. But that's just for the summer, I've got two more years left in the US."
Russell doesn't care that the sport won't earn him much, if any, recognition (or money) over here. Nor does Reynolds, who reckons this will be his last time at the Worlds. For the time being, they are savouring the sight of dozens of teams from around the globe descending on their doorstep, to play the sport they love.
"It's weird," admits Russell. "I walked in on the first day and the American team were coming down the stairs. I was thinking, 'I've seen you on TV, you on TV... and it's nice to play in front of friends and family. With the cost of it, it's a chance to try to perform for them."
"I've given up a great deal to do this," adds Reynolds. "Not only holidays, but work-wise. I thought about moving away to get other jobs and that's gone by the wayside. A huge amount has been given up for lacrosse - but it's worth it, being here now."