Promoting sports in the Tibetan community: an interview with Kalsang Dhondup, the driving force behind Tibetan sports
Dharamsala (Tibet.Net), 29 May 2003: The picture of a young Tibetan monk, balancing a football on his head from the movie ‘The Cup’ is now an enduring image of the Tibetans’ passion for football. This ground-breaking movie revealed to the outside world the Tibetans’, especially that of the monks’, love for the game.
At about the time the movie was released, the Tibetan national football team was making its maiden tour around Europe. In 2001, the team was invited to Europe for the second time to play a few more exhibition matches. Since then, the Tibetan footballers have never looked back.
For the love of the game, our footballers will once again appear on the ground, this time to compete for the much-coveted trophy: A Gold Cup in memory of our beloved Galyum Chenmo, the late mother of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The Gyalyum Chenmo Memorial Gold Cup (GCMGC) will make a comeback after four years. The teams participating in the tournament are the best ones from eight different zones around India and Nepal and the torunament will be held from 1 to 8 June in Dharamsala.
Tibetnet had the rare opportunity to talk with Mr Kalsang Dhondup, a member of the organizing committee of the coming tournament and also a member of the newly founded Tibetan national sports association. Here are some excerpts of the conversation.
TibetNet: Could you explain some background on the Tibetan national sports association?
A: The idea to establish such an association was first conceived several years back.However, it became a reality only in year 2001. We got permission from the Kashag and soon after, had it registered under the Indian law.
The goal of the federation is to promote all kinds of sports. But right now much of our focus has been on football. We have done that by taking in consideration the prevailing trend within our community.
The day-to-day working of the association is looked after by an eight-member governing body. Mrs. Jetsun Pema is the current the president. Thupten Dorjee is our secretary and I am the executive secretary.
TibetNet: How did the Tibetan national sport association end up organising the coming Gyalyum Chenmo Memorial Gold Cup (GCMGC)?
A: When we first started the association, two important things were laid out as our immediate plan. One was to form a standard national football team and the other was to organise a national football tournament. We didn’t want to make the same mistakes we had made earlier while selecting the earlier teams. We therefore decided to make this tournament much bigger and more extensive. In doing so, we divided the whole Tibetan community into eight different zones and began working on that with the help of Regional Tibetan Youth Congress in each respective zone.
Gyalyum Chenmo Memorial Gold Cup (GCMGC), on the other hand was an undertaking of a committee comprising of four different organisations. The committee was not able to hold the tournament for the last four years. Since GCMGC has already become a recognized entity within our community, we felt it more prudent to revive this popular tournament and make it a national tournament.
We approached the committee on this issue and after repeated request; they finally handed over the responsibility to us on 10 May.As of now, we plan to organize this tournament every year. But it could change depending on how we manage the coming tournament.
TibetNet: How many players will you select during this tournament?
A: As I told you earlier, the Association has already conducted a selection process from March last year and since then, 26 players have been selected. Now, in the coming tournament, we hope to get some more men and finally have a total of about 40 players. The selected ones will then attend a training camp from 10 June at the Vocational Training Centre (VTC) in Dehradun.
While selecting the present group of 26 footballers, I had personally traveled to the different zones. However in the coming tournament, we have set up a small team of well-qualified sports trainers to do the job.
TibetNet: Besides football, what other sports do you think will be more successful within our community? Anything you have done in promoting those?
A: Considering our physical stature, I find football as the most suitable game. And it is my belief that if we put more energy and resources into this game, we might even be able to make it to the international level in a few years time.
In other sports, maybe it would be more productive to focus on individual games. Those sports, which do not involve lots of teamwork, say like archery, boxing, judo, karate etc.
At this early stage of our Association, we are trying to contact different schools to let us know about anyone with potential of excelling in any sports. We intend to get in touch with different clubs around the country to recruit them, so that their potential will not be wasted.
TibetNet: Any effort or plans to organise camps for the young talents?
A: Among the various plans we have, one is to promote football at the school level. For that, we have already sent letters to 25 different schools and have requested them to start football clubs. If this works out well, then, we plan to ask the schools to send the better players to attend month-long camps which we can hold in places like Delhi and Bangalore during the vacations. For that we can even hire highly qualified physical trainers.
Actually, we have already received several invitations from abroad in this respect. For instance, offers have come from Japan and Germany asking us to send young Tibetans who have special interest in sports. However, at the present stage, we don’t feel prepared to sent anyone. But in a few years time, we will definitely be in a position to do that.
Besides that, we are also planning to get well-known trainers and sports personalities to visit different schools and give more exposure to the children.
You can help promote sports in our community.
Kalsang Dhondup (head office)
Ph no: +91-(1892)-220179