By Tenzin Monlam
Tibetan Women's team at Vancouver airport
DHARAMSHALA, June 30: A Tibetan Women’s Soccer team, represented by 14 Tibetan women arrived in Vancouver yesterday to take part in the Vancouver International Soccer Festival.
Tournament organizer Adri Hamael and supporters from the local Tibetan community held Tibetan and Canadian national flags welcomed the team managed by Tibet Women’s Soccer at the airport.
Receiving them with, the local Tibetans welcomed the team with Khatak (white ceremonial scarf) and Hamael in his welcome said that the organizers are going to take care of the team.
“You guys are the heroes. You are brave and courageous,” said Hamael, who despite various scrutinies from the Canada Soccer Association (CSA) and British Columbia Soccer Association (BCSA) stuck to his decision of inviting the team. He also had decided to cut ties with associations and run the tournament unsanctioned.
Pema Choedon, a midfielder of the team after arriving at the airport said, “It feels like a dream. I don't have words to express how we feel right now, we are too excited and happy.”
Cassie, the Director of the team, said, “It means something to these young ladies to represent their county. When they wear the Tibetan flag on their jerseys, it is a way to assert their right to self-determination and to represent Tibet as sport diplomats.”
However, Steven Reed, the President of apex soccer body of Canada in welcoming the team assured of no foul play. Stating that he was just following the rules of regional soccer governing body and FIFA, told CBC News that requesting for the names and travel documents of the 14 Tibetan players participating in the tournament was ‘nothing nefarious’.
“We welcome anyone to come and play but there is certain paperwork that has to be completed. We have to do our due diligence and we have to answer to the other governing bodies in the world.”
He also added that FIFA and CONCACAF collect the information from all soccer players travelling internationally and no differential treatment was meted out between professional, amateur, recreational or grass roots.
While denying any knowledge of any international opposition the Tibetan team, Reed said, “There is no information that has come to us. And to be honest we are not a political organization and we would not view that favorably.”
This would be the debut tournament for the Tibetan women’s team on an international platform, come July 7. Team Tibet will be playing team Canada in the opening match.