Tibetan Sports Association

Tibetan National Team for Gold cup.

Before trade, there shall be soccer.


GANGTOK: The silver jubilee celebrations of the all India Governor's Gold Cup will kick off at Bhaichung Bhutia Football stadium, Namchi, on 10 September with the Tibetan National football team squaring off against the Sikkim football association team in the opening match of the tournament.

Officials at SFA reveal that the decision to invite the Tibetan Team for the prestigious tournament was to tie in the silver jubilee of the Gold cup with the biggest development for Sikkim in recent time-reopening of Nathula for trade.

"We felt that inviting the Tibetan team would be an apt and befitting celebration of the Silver jubilee year and also the reopening of the trade route," said Menla Ethenpa, General secretary, SFA.

The tourney, will be hosting many football giants from all over the country and abroad. The special attraction at the tournament will be the first time entry of the Tibetan National Football Team.

The selection for the team was done in the first week of June 2003,when the team was short listed from Tibetan footballers all over the country. They have been playing a lot of tournaments since then with a recent friendly match against Denmark in the month of August. All though they put up a tough fight, the inexperienced team stood no chance against the Danish side, but is all the better from the experience.

Speaking to NOW! on behalf of the Tibetan National Football Team, Zimba,a member of the Tibetan Youth Club[TYC],said, "it gives us great pleasure to hardly welcome the Tibetan team. We will give full support to the team irrespective of whether they win or lose. It is their participation that matters."

He informed that the TYC will be sponsoring a thousand Tibetan National flags in support of their team. He also thanked the State government and Sikkim Football Association for inviting the team and allowing them to participate in tournament.

The Seventeen teams at this year's tourney are: TNFA,SPI[Chennai], Assam State Electricity Board, Sikkim police XI, George telegraph[Kolkata], Darjeeling Gorkha Hill council, Indian Air Force, SAIL F.A., Mohamedan AC.,RBK F.A.[Nepal], Chittagong Abahoni, Air India[Mumbai], BSF[Julluder], Arambagh[Bangladesh], Punjab police, Tata Football Academy, SFA XI and last year's holder and the team which has lifted the Gold Cup the maximum number of time, Mohan Bagan.

This Gold cup will also be the last in Namchi, SFA officials assure. The tourney will return to Gangtok next year in a grant culmination of the year-long Silver Jubilee celebrations chalked by SFA.

"The soccer trip in 1999 was our first sporting activity at world level. And pretty educative one too," says Dhondup. "The last time we visited Denmark in 2001 - we -played against Greenland. In many ways it can be called our first official tour. We had picked players from Tibetan Children's Village then," he adds.

Dhondup says that after the second trip they realised they needed an association, and the Tibetan National Football Association were formed. "Then, we started scouting for talents," he says.

Incidentally, their coach seems to be a makeshift one. They requested the Sports Authority of India (SAI) for Tibetan - Penpa Tsering who is coaching a special area group school in Sikkim. "But request was turned down by SAI. They said Tsering is required there".

So, They made Thupten Choephel, who had toured Europe in 2001 with previous team, as the coach.

There is also some apprehension over the team's visas. "The tour will be possible only if our applications for visa are accepted," says the team manager.

Dhodup would have preferred to have both their practice sessions at the main stadium, but they have been allotted the north side of the stadium for practice in the morning. "The middle there is slushy," he says. But he us not complaining much and says the planned tour is a "bold step" into the future.

"We have picked the team from Nepal and India under the aegis of the Tibetan National Football Association. Hopefully, some from this batch might just get chance to play for lower division European Clubs."

And China? "They are hosting Olympics in 2008. If we can graduate to the international level, that'll be a test for both - ours and theirs."