News / Asia

First Tibetan Women’s Soccer Team Blazes a Trail

The first Tibetan women's football team was set up just one year ago, Dharamsala, April 27.
The first Tibetan women's football team was set up just one year ago, Dharamsala, April 27.
Ivan Broadhead
Last year, an American teacher and 27 high school students from across the Tibetan Diaspora formed the first Tibetan national women’s football (soccer) team. Since then, they have overcome local critics who opposed the formation of the all-female team and become an inspiration for others.

News that a team of Tibetan women would enter a men’s soccer tournament last May sent ripples of excitement through this sleepy hill station at the foot of the Himalayas. There was also some disapproval.
 
Even Tibetans who have long lived in exile retain some conservative cultural views, says José Cabezón, Dalai Lama chair professor of Tibetan Buddhism and cultural studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
 
“Tibetan women have always had a considerable and powerful role within the family, but less so in society," said Cabezón. "The patterns that existed tend to be preserved and change is not easily won in society.”
 
Cassie Childers is the 31-year-old teacher from New Jersey whose vision of the team one day playing in the Olympics is the driving force behind Tibetan women’s soccer.
 
She says Tibetan men already have a national team and the Tibetan government-in-exile offers broad funding for boys’ school clubs.
 
“But there was nothing for the girls," said Childers. "So we had two aims. The first is to empower all Tibetan women. The second, very political, is to form Tibet’s first women’s national team, training our players to speak their truth, to tell the world about Tibet, as a tool for peace.”
 
Many of the young women selected for the team were born inside Tibet and had walked with their parents across the Himalayas to escape Chinese rule.
 
Many had never kicked a soccer ball before. To play their first match in the Gyalyum Chemo Memorial Gold Cup, players from nine schools in the Diaspora trained intensely for a month.
 
Childers says as soon as the tournament began, questions about the team’s credibility seemed to fade, along with any opposition to women’s participation in competitive sports.
 
“There were 5,000 Tibetans in attendance," she said. "When they saw our team walk onto that ground, something shifted. You could see this is something real.  This is something big.”
 
And, then shortly after the second half began, Lhamo Kyi scored the first goal in the history of Tibetan women’s soccer.
 
“This girl kicked the ball in the net and then ran into the middle of the ground and did a flip," said Childers. "And, that was the moment history changed. I never heard another [negative] comment.”
 
Like other young footballers around the world, team captain Lhamo and star midfielder Phuntsok Dolma aspire to the success achieved by heroes like British footballer David Beckham.
 
But a sense of responsibility, removed from the hype and money of the professional game, infuses the girls’ discussion of football. Dolma’s dream is to become a coach, like Childers.
 
“People say Tibetan women can never do what men can do," said Dolma. "But [we have shown] we can. In Tibet women don’t get any opportunities.  So I will teach them and say to them, ‘You must never give up. You can take this opportunity.’”
 
Sarah Rosemann of Williams College, Massachusetts, is conducting a study on women in Tibetan society. She sees significant gains being made in gender equality, but offers some caution.
 
"Women are standing up like this; starting to demand the men’s roles and to get involved in really pursuing their independence," said Rosemann. "A lot of that comes from being exposed to different ideas while in Diaspora. But, there is a lot more objectivization of women, as well.”
 
Although they may not have won the tournament, Coach Cassie and her players have already won broader victories.
 
By 2017 - emulating the Palestinian men’s team that has twice played against China - these young Tibetan women hope to achieve full international status from soccer governing body, FIFA.

You May Like

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs