ESCAPE TO VICTORY
TIBETAN SOCCER TEAM OVERCOMES HURDLES, TO PLAY IN COPENHAGEN
New Delhi, June 16
PROTEST FOOTBALL. It's alive and kicking. You thought football's final fling with social movement was John Houston's Escape To Victory. Now, here comes this bunch of Tibetans in exile from all across India, Nepal and a half a dozen based in Europe and their cook-all to play a football match.
Team Tibet landed here today after a two-week training camp at Dharamsala, all set to play Greenland in a historic encounter at an obscure stadium in a Copenhagen suburb on June 30
China is fuming. You would too, when the most potent weapon of mass mobilisation that you are credited with having invented centuries ago, is being used make a point against you. Not on.
They reportedly tried to block the game, and almost succeeded when they raised the point that neither team was recognised by the FIFA, hence it could not be termed and international game. Denmark, which like most of Europe recognises Tibet as a territory of China, conceded the point and the venue was shifted to suburban Vanlose, and billed as private match.
The Tibet-Greenland encounter has sparked off a lot interest in the region, not only because of its political overtones. The football side of Greenland, an autonomous territory of Denmark, which incidentally is an independent member of the world Football federation, has the legendary Sepp Piontekk (under whom the Danes dazzled at Mexico '86 ) as their coach.
The visiting team's jerseys, with TIBET emblazoned across the middle and bearing their official crest, have been designed by Scandinavian sportwear giants Hummel, and the move is on to market these shirts as fashion wear.
The idea for the match was conceived by a Danish event-manager Michael Nybrandt, a couple of years ago, who actually dreamt he was managing Tibet! He immediately got about contacting the DanishTibetan Cultural Society based in Copenhagen. He was directed to the sports representative Karma Ngadup, and soon things were moving.
The Tibet National Football Association was born under the National Sports Association in March this year. A Danish coach, Jens Espensen, soon appointed and as the Greenland fixture was being worked out. Tibetan from all over India were invited to compete for a place in the team.
Familiar second generation names cropped up -Delhi's City Club's Sonam Wangyal and UP goalkeeper at the '98 Nationals, Tamdin Tsering, among team.
But assistant coach Kalsang Dhondup feels that a lot of players could not be accommodated in the 15-member team, since papers were not in order. " We have had very short time to prepare," he says, "but the bigger problem is that many good players will have to be left out, since their papers for international travel and status is not in order." Captain Phuntsok Dorjee 39, a former para-trooping instructor with the Tibetan army, puts it best. "Football is the most non-violent way to win people. There cannot be anything better than football to make friends."
His coach downplays the China angle. "No, this is a match to just play football. We want peace, and only want to play football. I cannot understand hoe someone can object to playing football? He asks.
But he adds: " We are Tibetan. If we are called Tibetans, what can we do?"
This is the first article that came out in the Hindustan Times on 17th June 2001