XINING: For young soccer fans at a high school in northwest China’s Qinghai Province, their idol is not Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi, but Tselhamo, an alumna of the school.
“Soccer changed my life, giving me the opportunity to go to university and receive higher education and training,” Tselhamo said. Born into a herdsman’s family in Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in the province, the 21-year-old youngster is now a student at Qinghai Normal University thanks to her soccer skills.
“It used to be rare for girls to play soccer in Yushu, and they were often ridiculed by their classmates and opposed by their teachers and parents,” she said. Thankfully, the passion for soccer of Tselhamo and other girls touched Nimadenchow, a soccer coach of the high school where Tselhamo studied.
“I found many girls often watched the training of the men’s soccer team at the school,” said Nimadenchow. “The girls’ passion for soccer is no different from that of the boys.” The coach and some other teachers at the school decided to set up a women’s soccer team in 2018. Although her decision to practice soccer was still not accepted by some of her classmates or even her parents at that time, Tselhamo never gave up on her soccer dream.
Getting up at 5:30 a.m. and training until dark each day, Tselhamo was always the last player to leave the pitch. “All my troubles disappeared whenever I put on my sneakers and set foot on the pitch,” she said. “I know only soccer can make me happy.”
Her hard work has paid off. Tselhamo won the Yushu women’s campus soccer championship with her team, and she was named the best player. She was also rated as a national second-class soccer player.
Her coach always inspired her. “Do whatever you love to do and do not concern yourself with other people’s opinions,” said Nimadenchow. “Soccer has the magic power to give my students strength and happiness.”
In August 2019, Tselhamo was admitted to the physical education institute of Qinghai Normal University majoring in sports training, just as she had dreamed of. “The whole family cried with joy after my daughter received the university’s admission letter,” her father Dotin said. “We should not have opposed her soccer dream or thought playing soccer was not a decent job.”
Tselhamo has become an idol among the students at her old high school. “A lot of Tibetan students love playing soccer with great talent and enthusiasm, and sports are changing their lives,” said Nimadenchow. A total of five students at the high school were admitted to universities because of their sports talent in 2019. “I want to return to Yushu after graduation to teach more local children to play soccer and open a window for them to see the world,” said Tselhamo. “Soccer brings me happiness and friendship, and teaches me not to give up even after failure.”