In the wee hours of the morning of June 27, a contingent made up of 7 of our senior players plus Coach Gompo Dorjee and Director Cassie Childers, boarded a plane in New Delhi in secret, bound for Berlin, Germany. Invited by the German NGO Discover Football to participate in their soccer tournament Beyond (B)orders, the group didn’t publicly announce their plan to attend until they had already boarded the plane in attempt to avoid any interference from both within and without the Tibetan community.
These brave young women were to become the first female Tibetan athletes to represent Tibet abroad in known history, and the first Tibetan athletes of any gender to meet Chinese athletes in competition since the 1959 invasion.
The Beyond (B)orders tournament brings together women’s teams from around the world, splitting the contingents up onto new, mixed-nationality teams, keeping in-tune with the themes of women’s empowerment and overcoming differences and discriminations through sports.
Sports Diplomacy in Action
On the first day of the tournament, we overheard that the Chinese team had arrived. With a quick glance and a smile, our young Tibetan women ran over to them in the parking lot, greeting them with hugs and hellos in the Chinese language. The Chinese team, shocked to see a team representing Tibet, didn’t quite know how to react at first. But over the next few days, the players began to open up and share their personal stories. By the end of the tournament, the Tibetan players and the Chinese players had formed strong bonds of friendship. The significance of this is great; our players overcame all the politics, fear and hatred, and proved to the world that Tibetans and Chinese can meet in the middle in the spirit of camaraderie and compassion. Our team also met with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the USA Ambassador to Germany, and made friends with fellow athletes from around the world, spreading word of the Tibetan cause & representing their country.