The freedom to play football

Last night I attended a screening of the documentary The Forbidden Team. It was organised by Amnesty International (國際特赦組織) in Taipei. The film is about the Tibetan national football team and their efforts to play their first international match against Greenland in Denmark in 2001.

The film details the formation of the team from the Tibetan community in India and training for the event. Many of the team were unable to go to Denmark because of problems with their travel documents. Tibetans living in India are officially stateless and can only apply for an Indian Identity Certificate (IC) not a passport. This is just one of the many examples of how the Tibetans struggle for international space.

photo from www.forbiddenteam.com

When the time finally came to play the match China threatened Denmark with trade sanctions. Tibetans-in-exile from Switzerland were afraid to join the team because they could have been banned by FIFA. Despite the difficulties the match went ahead. Although the Tibetans didn’t win the match just playing it was a victory.

It was also a reminder that Taiwanese face similar problems in the international sporting arena. They are usually forced to compete under the ridiculous moniker “Chinese Taipei” and the ROC flag is often banned from sporting events (even in Taiwan). In October 2007 a Taiwanese competitor at the World Cyber Games was assaulted by Chinese competitors and journalists for displaying the ROC flag while being awarded a bronze medal. There are numerous other examples.

Tibetans and Taiwanese obviously face many more serious threats to their human rights. However, seeing the difficulties they face doing something as simple as playing sport it is an indicator of far greater problems. Another example connecting Taiwan and Tibet is Tashi Tsering. He returned to Taiwan from Japan yesterday after being detained by Japanese authorities for 20 days for protesting against the Olympic torch.

After the film I went to see the World Press Photo Exhibition (世界新聞攝影展) at the Eslite bookstore on Dunhua South Road (敦南誠品書店). There are so many amazing images in this exhibition that it is difficult to take it all in. Many of the images show war and violence and tell incredible stories. The Taipei Times has a good story on the exhibition. I highly recommend this exhibition and it runs until 8 June.

3 thoughts on “The freedom to play football

  1. Dear Dave,

    I checked out the photo exhibition, and it’s truly amazing.
    Thank you for recommending it!

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