Dekyi Drolma likes to spend her weekends and holidays on the football field. Her mother often complains that as a girl, she should not spend too much time playing football. But Dekyi Drolma isn't willing to compromise.
Having grown up in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yushu in northwest China's Qinghai Province, the 26-year-old said she was born to play football. Located on western China's Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, which sits at an average altitude of over 4,000 meters above sea level, Yushu is home to many rivers' headwaters.
"I don't know why, but I just love playing football since I was a kid. I would try to tackle my brother when he was playing football. Football is a kind of language between him and I," she said.
Dekyi Drolma found a job in Chengduo County, 120 km away from her hometown. She can only return to Yushu at weekends and holidays, and plays football during her break.
"I'm itching for a game, but feel guilty about my absence from my family," she added.
But Dekyi Drolma is not alone. Girls who love playing football in Gyegu Township of Yushu established a team in 2017. The team is called Yushu Tibetan Mulan.
The idea was inspired by Hua Mulan, a legendary female warrior, who disguised herself as a man to take her aged father's place in the army and fought against the enemy. The girls firmly believe that they will chase their football dream, just like Mulan chased her dream and kept faith in fighting for her country.
"King Gesar is a hero in the eyes of Tibetans, who curbed the violence and helped the weak all his life. We are Tibetan Mulans. We inherit the spirit of King Gesar as well," Dekyi Drolma said.
"There are some magical forces in football, which could transform grief into strength," said Dekyi Drolma.
In April 2010, a catastrophic earthquake struck Yushu, leaving around 3,000 residents dead and missing. There was once no open space for people to play football as the city was filled with debris and toppled houses.
However, Dekyi Drolma remembered that she always saw kids playing football and discussing tactics in front of tents and streets.
Thanks to a series of government-supported rebuilding projects, many football fields have been built across the city after the earthquake.
Kunkyap Yondeng is a footballer of the Yushu Khampa Wild Yak, which was set up earlier than the Mulan team in 2006. The team members include civil servants, students, taxi drivers, monks and teenagers.
The 31-year-old is a sports teacher in a local primary school. He said people of his age rarely saw modern football facilities when they were little.
"My work is to let more kids from remote pasture areas play football and love football," said Kunkyap Yondeng. "They are luckier than I am. They have the access to receive professional training when they are young."
"Playing football is very popular here in Yushu, so are the modern fields. Teams use the fields in turn," said Wang Jun, coach of Yushu Khampa Wild Yak, which has won ten championships in provincial ethnic minorities sports competitions.
"My peers and I share one dream: Yushu will develop a football team, representing China, and participate in the World Cup in the future," Wang said.
“Changing” is the word when many people in Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, northwest ...