In the small country nestled among snowy mountains the will to fight is still going strong. The impossible has suddenly become possible. And the wish for a national team is no longer merely a dream … The Tibetan national football team has become a reality. And by supporting the Tibetan national team, hummel gives this new team a chance in an old world.
Both seriously and wilfully the Tibetan national team players do their best to create great experiences, unity and hope. And they follow their own ways to create a characteristic cultural identity in finding a balance between the spiritual and the secular worlds.
This identity needs to be supported, and with this sponsorship hummel has let the love for football rule. Together with the Tibetan national team hummel has developed a complete football collection for both training and on-field. A collection that has also made a big sales success in fashion shops all over the world.
The hummel sponsorship also lends a hand to the local coaches. The support enables them to train players from different refugee camps and contribute with training facilities and equipment for the players, so that Tibet can create a football history of its own.
FOOTBALL FROM THE HEART
When a total of 5000 fans packed into Vanløse Stadium in the summer of 2001 to witness a unique event – a football match between the national football teams of Greenland and Tibet – they did not just witness a game. What they saw was the culmination of months of political high tension and drama, including a major political row with China which made headlines across the world.
Prior to all this commotion was an initial idea of a Tibetan National Team fostered in the mind of Danish Michael Nybrandt. When camping with a friend in Tibet back in 1997 Michael Nybrandt woke up from a dream in which he had a vision of himself coaching the Tibetan National Team.
A few months later when he applied for entrance at ‘Kaospiloterne’ – an education focusing on creative processes, projects and business design – he put ‘Coach of the Tibetan National Team’ in the objective-box in the application form.
At first he wrote it because he had to write something and to show his fellow students that he had a good sense of humour but as time went by the idea slowly became more than just a dream.
A DREAM COME TRUE
Consequently, Michael Nybrandt began pursuing his vision by contacting the Tibetan refugee government who thought the idea was exciting. But Nybrandt did not just want to create a football team but a complete Tibetan National Football Association, which could continue the project and generate money for the clubs, educate coaches etc. – in others words a sustainable footballing development. The government was convinced that Nybrandt was the perfect candidate for the job and therefore he was hired on the spot. Then the assembling of players began and during the following months Nybrandt created a very exciting and unique group of players who would feature in Tibet’s first international match ever. Nybrandt found some of his players in the Damsala plain where one was a working as a cattle drover. Another has long scratches across his back from when was attacked by a mountain lion and the 42-year-old captain of the team has only one hand due to an accident from his days as a military parachute jumper
NO POLITICAL AGENDA
China invaded Tibet in 1950 the year after the Chinese civil war ended and ever since China has refused to acknowledge Tibet as an independent country. As a result of these political tensions Michael Nybrandt has often been accused of having a political agenda but the fact is that all his work is done out of love for football. None the less Nybrandt had a very hard time finding clothing sponsors for his newly gathered selection of Tibetan players until he contacted hummel Fashion managing director Christian Stadil who was instantly taken with the idea. The two shared a common interest in Buddhism as well the growing ethnical influence on different life styles across the world. Also, Stadil liked the idea of an untraditional and unique sponsorship, which would send strong signals to the rest of the sportswear world. After all Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet is the 3rd most known face in the entire world! To make the sponsorship stand out even stronger hummel Fashion decided to make a different football shirt. The Tibetan National Team jersey has a unique funky, tight, and sexy look and is only sold in carefully selected fashion stores contrary to your traditional football shirt.
A LONG AND WINDING ROAD
With the clothing arrangements in place Nybrandt started looking for an opponent for the first ever Tibetan National Team but doing that proved to be a task just as difficult as finding a sportswear sponsor. Due to FIFA regulations no member of FIFA can play against a country, which is not a member of the world governing football body. Nybrandt eventually called Jens Brinch, the General Secretary of the Sports Confederation of Greenland, who thought the idea was excellent. But troubles were not over yet. With the game approaching the Chinese government contacted the Danish Foreign Ministry and the Danish Football Association to try and make them stop the game. Furthermore, China threatened to impose a ban on imports of about 20 million worth of Greenland shrimps a year.
GAME DAY AT LAST
Despite all the turmoil and troubles, years of preparation and hard work finally paid off when Tibet and Greenland entered the field at Vanløse Stadion on a beautiful July afternoon to play a very special and historical match for both teams.
The fact that neither of the teams were allowed to raise their flags during the national anthems was completely overwhelmed by the thousands of paper flags distributed among the vast crowd consisting of a great variety of people – from the creative advertising people of inner city Copenhagen and well known musicians to the hard core hippies from the free town of Christiania.
After the game Michael Nybrandt stated: "Spectators flew the flags of both nations. I firmly believe that 60 percent of them had never attended a football game before."
"It was a football game straight from the heart – and there were no losers", Jens Brinch said.
The game did not go unnoticed by any means. It was shown on both CNN and BBC and broadcasted on various radio channels across the world and even had to be postponed for 30 minutes because of the great rush of people who wanted to witness this historical event. By the way, Greenland won the game 4-1.
WHAT WILL THE FUTURE BRING?
No one can really answer that question. One thing is for sure though – football has grown immensely in Tibet during the last few years and in 2003 the first Tibetan National Championship was held. At the moment plans are made for a real grass pitch in Damsala and many schools have begun focusing a great deal on football so progress is definitely being made. Last year the Tibetan National Team returned to the hummel headquarters in Århus to play a team of hummel All Stars. Hopefully, this beautiful friendship will continue for many years to come…..