Soccer Dreams of Tibetan Exiles

Tibetan exiles share the hardships and struggles they have encountered to establish a “national soccer team” without a recognized “nation”. From Radhika Oberoi at The New York Times:

The Tibetan national soccer team had its first match in Bologna, Italy, in 1999. That came after Kasur Jetsun Pema, the younger sister of the Dalai Lama and former president of the Tibetan Children’s Village, accepted an invitation by the Italian band Dinamo Rock for an exhibition match against the Dinamo Rock team, in Bologna. The national team was formed to participate in the match, which it won 5-3, and it has represented a rowdy bid for statehood ever since.

Young Tibetans who have settled in India eagerly compete for spots on the national team, but once they qualify, they have few opportunities to play overseas. Because Tibet is not recognized as an independent country, FIFA, the soccer world’s governing body, does not allow the Tibetans to play against any teams it recognizes.

[…] Nationalistic fervor fires up morale in the absence of glamorous international prospects. Gompo Dorjee, the 33-year-old coach of the Dhondupling Football Club from Dehradun, recalled playing in Copenhagen in 2001 against Greenland, which won the match, 4-1.

“We played on a grassy ground for the first time,” he said. “In Dharamsala, we had trained on a patch of muddy ground that had a pathway for villagers and their cattle running through the middle.” [Source]


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