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<-Back to WTN Archives More than a game
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World Tibet Network News

Published by the Canada Tibet Committee

Sunday, July 1, 2001

6. More than a game

Politics overshadows Greenland's win over Tibet

Posted: Saturday June 30, 2001 1:27 PM

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) -- Arctic Greenlanders thrashed a team of exile
Himalayan Tibetans 4-1 in an unofficial soccer friendly played on
neutral ground in a suburb of the Danish capital Saturday.

Politics overshadowed the amateur match, which took place in defiance of
Chinese diplomatic efforts to have it stopped and the refusal of the
Danish Football Association (DBU) to cooperate with the arrangement.

In front of a crowd of 5,100 spectators, including locally resident
Greenlanders and Tibetan refugees, Tibet took the lead in the first few
minutes with a powerful shot from Lobo. Greenlander Leon Geisler
equalized before half time.

In the second half, the Greenlanders took complete control of the match
with a goal by Niels Laursen followed by two from Ole Rasmussen.

"As a football match, the game was not up to much but it was fun with
flag-waving Greenlanders in the crowd along with refugees from Tibet," a
radio commentator said.

"The tempo was fast but the football was lower division stuff. Greenland
totally dominated the second half."

There were no incidents on or off the field.

Dane Michael Nybrandt, who worked on arranging the match for almost a
year, coached the exile Tibetans, mainly based in Britain, Germany and
Switzerland, while former Danish national coach Sepp Piontek was at the
helm of the Greenland team.

Behind the scenes of this curious soccer match, a more serious political
game was played, with China trying to stop the game, sources told

The DBU, which acknowledged it had been approached by the Chinese
embassy in Copenhagen regarding the match, opposed the fixture.

"We can all sympathize with the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people, but
FIFA (world soccers governing body) regulations are absolutely clear on
this issue," DBU information chief Lars Berendt said.

"The 22 players obviously have the right to play their match but we had
to reject their request for assistance as we must respect FIFA rules."

Neither Greenland nor Tibet are members of FIFA, though Greenland is
currently trying to gain DBU backing for a membership application to
UEFA, European soccer's governing body.

No pitch

The ice-bound Arctic territory lacks one key qualification for UEFA
membership -- a grass pitch.

Greenlands Sports Federation fought to have the match against Tibet
played in the face of fears of Chinese retaliation. Greenland, a Danish
province enjoying limited home rule under Denmark, has a significant
export of prawns to China.

Thousands of Tibetans led by the Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959, nine
years after the Chinese army entered Tibet and overthrew the Buddhist
theocracy there.

Last year, relations between Denmark and Beijing were strained over a
visit to Copenhagen of Tibets exiled spiritual leader. The Chinese
government urged Denmarks government to cancel its arrangements for a
meeting between the Dalai Lama and Danish Prime Minister Poul Nyrup
Rasmussen to "allow bilateral relations to develop smoothly."

In the event, Rasmussen met the Dalai Lama on May 21 for 45 minutes at
Copenhagen International Airport and not in his own office where he
usually receives foreign dignitaries.

Along with other European Union member states, Denmark officially
recognizes Tibet as a part of China.

Articles in this Issue:
  1. Should Beijing get the games?
  2. Interview with Dalai Lama in Trentino
  3. China conundrum really about dollars.
  4. China readies for Party birthday with survival vow
  5. Work begins on disputed Tibetan rail link
  6. More than a game
  7. Underdog Tibetan soccer team claims victory before the game begins
  8. Major Projects for Tibet Development Planned

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