Tibetan National Sports Association

About TNFA

‘The Mission Marmots’ was the name given to the 1936 British Mission football team. The Mission established this team to play against various local groups (including ‘Lhasa United’) on a pitch beyond the Norbulingka. No goal was ever conceded by the British, perhaps because they wore army field boots.

Team members (back row from left to right): Sonam, unknown person, Minghu; (middle row from left to right); Frederick Spencer Chapman, Sidney Dagg, Dr. William Morgan, Evan Nepean; (bottom row) unidentified Mission assistants.
Photograph: Federick Spencer Chapman
1936 – 1937


Tibetans were first introduced to the game of football in the early part of the 20th Century. The British and their Indian soldiers played football at the British Trade Agency at Gyantse. The introduction of the British military training at Lhasa in 1913, the subsequent increase in the Army and introduction of a modern Police Force in the early 1920’s saw more football in Tibet. The game continued to be played throughout the period before China’s occupation in 1949. In the 1950’s a few popular teams emerged, like the Lhasa, the Potala, the Drapchi and Bodyguard Regiment football teams. There were frequent matches among themselves as well as with the Chinese military.

Soon after the Tibetan Government in Exile was formed in 1959 and Schools established in the early 1960’s, young students showed much interest in football. Regular inter-school tournaments were hosted and these initiated much interest and passion among spectators of all ages.

In 1981, the first club level tournament was organized in memory of the late Great Mother of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. It has since then come to be known as the Gyalyum Chenmo Memorial (GCM) Gold Cup the most popular tournament in the Tibetan exile community.

In 1998, an invitation from the Italian rock music group “Dinamorock” received a positive response from the Head Office of the Tibetan Children’s Villages (TCV). Subsequently, the first ever-national team was selected to play in Bologna, Italy in June 1999. This was the turning point for Tibetan football, for it opened the doors for talented players to realize their dreams of playing for the national side.

In 2001, The Danish Tibetan Cultural Group invited the national team to play against Greenland. Mr. Michael Nybrant, a member of our association, played a pivotal role in our national team’s successful and historic tours to Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.