By Tenzin Dharpo
DHARAMSHALA, Nov. 16: The former goalie of the Tibetan national football team has taken charge of the apex Tibetan sports body, Tibetan National Sports Association (TNSA). Tenzin Rinchen, the youngest Executive Director of TNSA took over the reins last month with a number of projects and plans that he hopes will take Tibetan football, particularly Tibetan women’s football to the next level.
“My prime focus is on development of grassroots initiatives that can foster future crop of players into the mainstream football platforms. It’s a slow and long process, a lot of ground work is needed,” he told Phayul.
While the sport of football has a cult following in the exile Tibetan community, the level of football unfortunately is still in a nascent stage and decades away from catching up to world-level standards. However, Rinchen feels that the gap for women’s football to reach mainstream level is much lesser than their male counterparts. “The first women’s world cup was held in 1991, the level of international women’s football is not that far off compared to men’s. If we can train young Tibetan girls properly and consistently, there will be many of them who can reach professional level in the years to come, that’s doable,” he said.
The goalkeeper of the Tibetan national team in 2013, Rinchen is painfully aware of the platform that the team gets under the crippling financial and organizational handicaps. “Another thing that I want to improve is the funds and the platform that the Tibetan squad gets. The more we play in tournaments out there, the more exposure and visibility our players get. Right now, Tenzin Samdup is the only full-fledged professional player, in the years to come, who knows?” he said optimistically.
“Also, there is a big need to monetize Tibetan football whether its setting up a system to sell our merchandise or generating revenue from grassroots community involvement projects. The aim is to create a system that can independently generate revenue and not just rely on donations,” Rinchen told Phayul.
Former TNSA Executive Director and founding members of the Tibetan football in exile Kelsang Dhondup welcomed the appointment of the former player. “I have high hopes. He was a former player and someone who has studied sports management. I am sure he will do good things for Tibetan football,” Dhondup told Phayul earlier.
The Tibetan Men’s national football team lost their first international match 1-4, played in Denmark against Greenland in June 2001. Over the years, the men’s team has participated in international tournaments like FIFI Wild Cup (2006), ELF Cup in Cyprus (2006), The International Tournament of Peoples, Cultures and Tribes in France (2013) and CONIFA World Cup (2018). The Tibetan Women’s football team has not participated in any international tournaments.