Date with a ball: Tibetan women soccer team aims FIFA recognition by 2017
When the first time these girls team walked onto the football pitch last summer for a match, no one among the 5,000-odd spectators, who were thinking that they are in for a good laugh, had realised that the day would be written in golden words in the history of Tibetans in-exile.
However, the notion of the conformist crowd started failing a few minutes into the second half of the match as Lhamo Kyi scored the first-ever goal in the history of the Tibetan women's football match. She kicked the ball in the net, ran into the middle of the ground and did a flip - everything changed since then.
Now, keeping a date with the ball - emulating the Palestinian men's team that has twice played against China - these young Tibetan women hope to achieve full international status from the soccer governing body, Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).
The team is being trained by Cassie Childers, 31, a US woman footballer from New Jersey, under the aegis of the Tibetan National Sports Association (TNSA), a non-governmental organisation based in Dharamsala.
The team comprises 27 girls, all high-school students from across the Tibetan Diaspora.
Since its inception, the team has played many exhibition matches, which include a series of two games against Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, team recently.
The team lost both the games, but the morale is as high as ever - the goal ahead is more special.
Many of the young women selected for the team were born in Tibet and had walked with their parents across the Himalayas to escape the Chinese rule.
“We are emphasising on more and more games against quality teams and will continue with the programme until we build a team that could compete with the best in Asia,” said executive secretary, TNSA, Kelsang Dhundup.
“We started with 27 girls who had never kicked the ball in their life and now we are reaching more than 650,” he said, adding that under the TNSA's football promotion programme, they had initially constituted girls' football clubs in nine establishments, including eight TCVs and a day-school across Himachal.
This year, TNSA will be expanding its programme to the Doon valley region - formation of three more clubs in Uttarakhand and Paonta Sahib of Himachal. The programme is focused on to empower all Tibetan women and field a recognised national women soccer team by 2017.
“This year, our team will also visit Manipur to play exhibition matches as game is more popular there. Besides, we have also planned some training camps,” said Dhundup.
Coach of the team Cassie Childers said, “She wants to see the team marching into the Olympics and World Cup stadiums. It may be a long haul, but not impossible.”
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