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Thursday, 5 July, 2001, 12:52 GMT 13:52 UK
Beaten Tibet score political point
Fifa offered no assistance to the organisation
Tibet's players are in exile, living in Nepal and India.
BBC Sport Online's Martin Fookes looks back at one of the strangest international matches of all time.

Jens Brinch, secretary general of the Greenland Sports Federation, called it "an act of idealism against a football world dominated by money."

Certainly, the match between Greenland and Tibet will go down as the one of the strangest internationals ever played.

That it was played at all was a miracle.

The international governing body Fifa, clearly doesn't want to adopt either team.

Tibet, because of the internationally-accepted claim on it by China, and Greenland because of its uninviting climate, geographical remoteness and lack of grass pitches.

Emotional effect

Commercial pressures have recently made Fifa more choosy.

Greenland and Tibet came together at the modest Vanlose Stadium, Copenhagen, without their blessing or the support of the Danish FA.

As if that wasn't bad enough, an air strike in Greenland robbed their football coach, the former Danish national team boss Sepp Piontek, of his entire squad.

A desperate Piontek had to recruit another team made up of Greenlanders based in Denmark players he first met 48 hours before the match.

"The alternative would have been to call the match off and that would have been a catastrophe for everyone," he told me.

The match attracted 5,000 fans
Tibet's youngest player is just 17, the oldest is 39

As it happened, what could have been a catastrophe was rated a huge success.

The match drew over 5,000 fans - so many more than expected that the kick-off had to be delayed by more than 20 minutes.

"It's amazing, I just can't believe it," said Tibet's manager Karma Ngodup. "Two months ago we were talking about two to three hundred people coming but it was completely packed."

There was supposed to be no national anthems, but they were played and clearly had an emotional effect on all concerned.

There was supposed to be no flags, but there were hundreds of them.

The crowd generated a carnival atmosphere. Many waving Tibetan colours did so for political reasons.

They had come to support Tibet in its battle for human rights and political freedom from China.

There was more enthusiasm than skill, but now they have a taste for international football, neither team wants to stop.

Greenland plan to take on Lapland teams from the northern-most points of Scandinavia, while Tibet are organising a trip to Germany this month with matches against Mali and Monaco.

International football could get stranger still.

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See also:

30 Jun 01 |  Europe
Tibetans triumphant after loss
26 Jun 01 |  Europe
Tibetans show their colours
23 May 01 |  Asia-Pacific
Tibet anniversary: Contrasting views
23 May 01 |  Asia-Pacific
Tibet: Flashback to the Chinese 'deal'
15 Jan 01 |  Europe
Timeline: Greenland
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