By Yuan Quan, Chungda Drolkar, People's Daily
China's Tibet autonomous region has an average altitude of over 4,000 meters above sea level. The air oxygen content there is only 60 percent of that in lowland areas. However, the chilly climate and thin air can never defeat local people's love for soccer, a sport that shines on the plateau.
Shigatse, a city in Tibet autonomous region, sits at the foot of Mount Qomolangma, also known as Mount Everest. Wih an average altitude of 4,300 meters above sea level, Tashizom township in the city's Dingri county, is the township that's the closest to Mount Qomolangma.
From the soccer field of the township elementary school, Mount Qomolangma can be seen clearly. During the winter vacation, Children living nearby would always come to the soccer field to play soccer.
It is always the noisiest place of the school on every Thursday afternoon, the activity time for the school's soccer hobby group.
Sixth-grader Tashi Phuntsog is a "star" of the school. He always draws applause from spectators for spectacular dribbling, passing and movements.
"The students love soccer very much. The soccer hobby group is the most popular one among the students," said math teacher Phutse, who's in charge of the soccer hobby group, and also a soccer fan. According to him, the group now has over 50 students, including both boys and girls.
Motuo county, located 1,000 kilometers away from Tashizom township, has taken the development of soccer as an important task. The county, with an average altitude of 1,200 meters above sea level, sits in a valley and most of its buildings are constructed beside mountains. Despite the unfavorable landform, the township still built 10 soccer pitches, including a standard one where 11-a-side games can be played.
Soccer is one of the most popular sports among local children in Motuo. The Motuo township elementary school is a national-level school with a specialty in soccer. Among the five soccer leagues in Nyingchi, the city that administers Motuo, the school has won laurels in three.
Awang Namgyal, principal of the school, told People's Daily that the school has a boys' soccer team of 20 players, and established a 18-player girls' team in 2021. Every class of the school has a soccer lesson each week, the principal added.
"We have incorporated soccer into the physical education curriculums of schools at different levels. We also established school soccer teams and soccer classes. So far, all the secondary and elementary schools in the county have established soccer classes and boys' soccer teams. Girls' teams are being set up, too," said Hu Zhibin, head of Motuo's education bureau.
Samcho, a ninth-grader in Lhari county, Nagqu, Tibet autonomous region, enjoys playing soccer on his school's soccer pitch a lot, from where a towering snow-covered mountain can be observed.
When Samcho was in elementary school, he was trained to play soccer. Therefore, he was elected a member of the school soccer team in the first year after he entered secondary school. To score big in the sport has long been a dream of the young boy.
Over the recent years, Tibet autonomous region has rolled out measures to better support the development of soccer. According to an official with the sports bureau of the autonomous region, all 74 counties and districts in Tibet have built soccer fields.