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

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs