Tibet 1 Karpatalya 5 (CONIFA World Cup)


Tibet 1 Karpatalya 5 (3rd June 2018)

Same tournament as yesterday, same ground, but rather more goals on an enjoyable, if rather warm, Sunday afternoon.

Following on from the Kabylia fans yesterday, it was the turn of the Tibet fans to provide the colour and noise. They turned out in numbers to enthusiastically cheer their team, albeit in a higher pitch than normal, as oddly, the majority of their fans were female. In contrast, Karpatalya – a team representing a Hungarian minority in Ukraine – seemed to be backed by one solitary supporter, and didn’t have much joy winning over the locals either.

That Tibetan enthusiasm was based squarely on the pride and joy of watching a team representing their country, as they’d already lost both of their opening games, and would have be odds on to lose this one too, against a team who’d already beaten the previous winners.

Cheered on by their supporter singing away in the stand, dotted around the pitch, and even two sneakily watching from over fence, sat perched on a shipping container, Tibet could probably have done with not conceding a goal inside two minutes, with Karpatlya tucking the ball away to almost complete silence.

Two more goals followed, one from the sport, before half-time, as Tibet’s play failed to live up to the enthusiasm. Tibet didn’t have many shots in the half, but the two lads on the shipping container were probably glad there was a net there, or they’d not have been too safe.

After a display of traditional music and costume from the Tibet fans at half time, the game resumed into its pattern of Karpatalya pretty much keeping Tibet at arm’s length, but there was a slight shift. Either Tibet were getting a little better, or Karpatalya had taken their foot off the gas, and Tibet were just starting to look like they could threaten.

With 20 minutes left, it happened, the moment all the crowd (except for one) had been waiting for – a Tibet goal. There didn’t look to be too much danger, with the ball still quite far out, but a looping shot deceived the Karpatalya keeper and crept in under the bar. Cue ecstatic cheers from those from the Tibet, and the many locals who’s opted to support Tibet for the day – many even wearing the quite striking Tibet shirt. Seldom have consolation goals been cheered with greater fervour.

The fact that Karpatalya, rather uncharitably, almost nonchalantly knocked in a further two goals didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits. The day, despite a heavy defeat and a zero point finish, belonged to Tibet. Singing away, with a drum, a megaphone, and another guy with the PA system’s mic… “Ti-bet! You can do it!” was one common song, even if they probably couldn’t.

At the final whistle, the ever excitable fans were singing away “Well done…Ti-bet!” You have to wonder how they’d react to a Tibet team that actually won a game. Perhaps for the female contingent it’d rival Meg Ryan’s cafe performance in When Harry Met Sally. Maybe they’d just pass out. It’d certainly be fun to find out.

More respectfully, the Tibet fans sang unaided (what I presume to be) the Tibet national anthem, and the players, to a man, stood hand on heart, to respect it.

They then approached the fans, walking the entire length of one side of the ground, shaking every hand that was offered, clearly delighted with the support they received, while the fans were proud to see their country represented on the world stage, however small. The CONIFA World Cup might not be all that important in the grand scheme of the football world, but clearly to the fans, with the pride they take in their nations getting recognition, it most certainly is.

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