Gonpo our Tibetan manager
Meeting in the Labrang Monastery Restaurant with English speaking Gonpo, after a morning spent designing possible signs for their front door (with all the spelling mistakes of course, well, would we?)
Yes yes game with the monks will be good. Turn to three young monks, big smiles all round. Right, so tomorrow on the Tibetan middle school pitch 6 o’clock yeah, grin, yeah. Woah, hold it, not so fast, fourth monk say different, gonpo listens. What can he be saying? The mood has fallen. They cannot play here, they will be seen by concerned elder monks (see political comment here), the grasslands will be better. For the love of Jesus Dalai Lama Christ ‘n’ football ‘n’ life on this competitive road, let’s do it. Agree, agree. Our third game in as many days at 3000 metres. Ole, ole, ole, ole, ole, ole.
Well, secret from the authorities it was, we and they then bigged it up in a beautiful exchange of rules, tackles and yet again, this beautiful game…
The road we took was rocky, washed away and rock strewn in places, the van, packed to the gills with our new friends, Tim the boy Noble, Chris, Rob, new recruit French lad Cyrille and as we all sang ole, ole I reached forward to snap this photo.
The team bus
Mountains grew taller all around us and the road opened up into a mile wide, flat valley floor, greener than anywhere we had seen for the last six weeks of desert travel. The air was refreshingly damp and as J—–, with the other monks, excitedly pointed into the lush middle distance, I made out a field with robed bodies weaving to and fro. Jeepers, this was heavenly. My heartbeat quickened, my breath grew shorter and we all piled out of the van grinning from ear to ear for our first game on grass for the entire trip.
The Grasslands and the game
The game was ragged helped by the lumpy, sometimes heathery surface, and the games were fiercely contested as the mixed teams battled to bang the ball between two five foot branches driven into the ground at each end of a 40 yard pitch. A few of the monks were practised in this art (what’s this, football and art? – ed.) and others less so, however anger and laughter littered the game as smiles and handshakes ended it.
Rob’n'Phil in Grassland heaven
Love to all involved,
Missing your tackles and passes already,
(That’s enough now – ed.)
Written by Phil Wake on Wednesday, May 22nd, 2002