"FUNdamental Soccer Reaches New Heights in Tibet"
We are pleased to begin publishing the personal experiences of American coach/teacher Cassie Childers as she plans and implements our ‘9-Step Practice Routine’ while starting a girls' soccer program for Tibetan refugees living in India based in Dharamsala, home of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Coach Cassie will document her experiences, interactions and emotions as she embarks on this Forbidden Journey of a lifetime.
"It All Started Last Summer" By Cassie Childers
It all started last summer in India. I was back for the fourth time, in my beloved second home, a small settlement called Dharamsala, located in the far north, perched on the edge of the Himalayas. Over the course of the many months I’ve spent there (it now adds up to about one full year of my life) I have received such amazing blessings from the people, the culture, and the experience of becoming a true member of the community.
Dharamsala is a Tibetan refugee town, continuing to grow decades after the Dalai Lama, spiritual and political leader of Tibet, was granted asylum there by the Indian government in 1960 after the Chinese invasion of Tibet. Today,
Dharamsala remains a safe haven for newly arrived refugees, who for over fifty years have been crossing the Himalayas on foot to escape the tragic human rights abuses the Chinese government continues to impose. It is a magical place – filled with hope, learning, great beauty – and represents a new beginning to many who find themselves there.
This past summer, in the midst of World Cup soccer fever, I attended a small exhibition showcasing the history of Tibetan soccer. As I viewed old photographs and trophies from teams past, a profound realization emerged. Where were the women?
Not only were they not present in the photos, there was not a single female, besides myself, in the gymnasium. I immediately began to inquire. Though no one could quite explain why Tibetan women didn’t play soccer, all of the men I asked, including Kalsang Dhondup, President of the Tibet National Sports Association, expressed genuine enthusiasm at my proposal that perhaps they should. This rather informal inquiry quickly transformed itself into a quite formal invitation from the TNSA to come and introduce the game of soccer to the female refugees of Dharamsala in hopes of improving the quality of their lives. How could I say no?
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