COPENHAGEN, April 30 (Reuters) - A local soccer ground in a Copenhagen suburb will lend its green pitch to players who are used to rougher conditions when Arctic Greenland meets Himalayan Tibet in an unofficial friendly match on June 30.
Dane Michael Nybrandt, who has been working on arranging the
match for almost a year, is coaching the 20-man strong squad of
exile Tibetans, while former Danish national coach Sepp Piontek
is at the helm of the Greenland team.
Behind the scenes of this curious situation, a more serious
political game is being played with China trying to stop the
match, sources told Reuters on Monday.
The Danish Football Association (DBU) acknowledged it had
been approached by the Chinese embassy in Copenhagen regarding
'We are subject to FIFA (world soccer`s governing body)
regulations and we therefore cannot have anything to do with the
match,' DBU secretary-general Jim Stjerne Hansen said.
'We would never get FIFA`s approval to host the match as the
Chinese Football Association would never allow such match to be
played,' he said.
Neither Greenland nor Tibet are members of FIFA though last
year Greenland signalled they were considering an application
join UEFA, European soccer's governing body.
In Greenland, Chinese resistance to the match has also
caused some concern although the vast Arctic island has not
officially heard from China, according to Greenland`s Sports
Greenland has a significant export of prawns to China and
after recently reaching agreement with China on a considerable
reduction of duty on Greenland prawns it would be unfortunate to
offend Beijing, a spokeswoman from Greenland`s local government
But Greenland`s Sports Federation intends to defy politics
and play Tibet.
'We intend to play and I cannot see what should prevent us
from doing so,' Greenland`s Sports Federation secretary-general
Jens Brinch said.
The Chinese embassy in Copenhagen was not immediately
available for comment.
Thousands of Tibetans led by the Dalai Lama fled to India in
1959 nine years after the Chinese army entered Tibet and
overthrew the Buddhist theocracy there.
Most of the Tibetan players are from India, Nybrandt said,
with the team`s activities financed by grants from various
foundations and sponsors.
Last year relations between Denmark and Beijing were
strained over a visit to Copenhagen of Tibet`s exiled spiritual
The Chinese government urged Denmark`s government to
cancel its arrangements for a meeting between the Dalai Lama and
Danish Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen to 'allow bilateral
relations to develop smoothly.'
In the event Rasmussen met the Dalai Lama on May 21 for 45
minutes at Copenhagen International Airport and not in his own
office where he usually receives foreign dignitaries.
Along with other European Union member states Denmark
officially recognises Tibet as a part of China.