Sport brings people together and changes lives. This was most definitely the case when a group of refugee girls from Tibet, who are currently living in India and Nepal, formed the nation’s very first women’s soccer team. With countless Tibetan people currently displaced due to the ongoing quarrels with China over Tibetan sovereignty, this soccer team is a way for these women to remain connected to the home they had to leave behind.

There are 14 women that make up this team of soccer players. More than just a love for the game, each one of these women are refugees who have been forced to start new lives in India and Nepal. Although the team has inspired millions of people all around the world, they have experienced major setbacks since they started playing. They have been barred from competing at international events, such as earlier this year when they were denied access to the US, due to the country’s stricter migration laws. Slowly but surely, however, the team is making their existence known as they enter other major international events.

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The happiness during practice time is tangible. Photograph by Tenzin Yangzom

 

The story begins many years ago, when China started its invasion of Tibet in 1949. Since then, countless people have been displaced and today, the political climate remains tense. In the hopes of starting a new life, people have fled to the border of India. Of these people who flee to the border, it’s very often women who suffer the most. With very few opportunities and resources, life can be very hard for women. The Tibet Women’s Soccer organisation states that organised sport is a way for women to express themselves physically and helps enrich their lives with a sense of belonging and also elevates their presence within their communities.

 

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The team mid-game, while fans look on. Photograph by Tenzin Yangzom

 

Today, the organisation is completely independent and has engaged with over 3 000 Tibetan women living in exile. The organisation aims to continue empowering women by creating a way for them to feel connected to Tibet while they are exiles.

We featured this incredible group of women in the August edition of Marie Claire, with the stunning Thando Hopa as our cover star.