By Ganzey Tshering
LONDON, UK, 30 May 2018
As the much-awaited 2018 CONIFA World Football Cup is all set to start on Thursday, the wild-card entry team, Tibet, is the talk of the town. No one really knows who these players are, nor have the other teams seen any of these young lads play. This Cinderella team is as mysterious as the Shangri-la, but one factor is for certain, the Snow Lions have arrived in London and they are here to play.
CONIFA is the Confederation of Independent Football Associations, an international organisation which organises a World Football Cup for states, minorities, stateless peoples, and regions not affiliated with FIFA (the international governing body of association football that organises the World Cup).
The team Tibet is comprised of relatively amateur players mostly from the Indian subcontinent, and two players each from England, Europe, Canada, and the US. There are also three officials.
They have had a long, arduous journey as the waiting game continued till the very end, when the visa situation made it rather impossible to do things on different levels, be it logistics, preparation, and the list goes on. Luckily, with pressure from various fronts, the team finally secured their travel permits, received the blessings from His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the CTA, and the team has been lodging, practising, and attending numerous functions for the last ten days in London.
Today, the team officially moved to their permanent residence at The Stay Club in Colindale, where most of the teams are also putting up. Team Tibet was one of the first ones to arrive at the club, and it was a rather tedious process to get them finally moved in to their respective rooms. The morale of the team seems to be upbeat and strong, the manager Pasang Dorjee stated “we will fight till the end, and play to win”, when asked by a French journalist.
The official press conference was attended by a rather large contingent of reporters and media outlets. Sadly no accredited Tibetan reporter was present, except for London Ney, a two-man team who has been following the team and live streaming on social media). The questions varied from funding, team selection, playing rules (no red cards, but there is a green card), and the presence of the underdog team, Tibet.
To the question of team Tibet participating in the tournament, the General Secretary of CONIFA Sascha Duerkop replied that they had till now not received any calls from the Chinese Embassy here in London. He also added they do not anticipate any objections from any quarters and that CONIFA was proud to have the Tibetan team participate.
Karma Tsewang of team Tibet stated he was simply excited to have his team here and was very optimistic about the chances of their progress as they face Abkhazia (the former Champions) on 31 May at Enfield, then Northern Cyprus at Enfield on 2nd June, and Karpatalya at Bracknell on 3rd June.
The young and rather inexperienced team is finally all set to play at the highest level against teams which they may have never even heard of before (and that goes for the other teams as well), but surely one thing is for certain, the underdog team is here to play, give their best, and win.
Per-Anders Blind, President of CONIFA was rather blunt in stating that the chances of team Tibet progressing to the knockout stages was slim, but rumblings from certain quarters are that the bookies in London are all crunching their numbers and scratching their brains, for one might see some big windfall if you do put your money on the dark horse.