Crowdfunding helps historic story about Tibetan football team come to life

Monetary support has enabled its Danish coach to write a graphic novel about his experience

Thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign, the true story of a Dane’s amazing journey to establish the Tibetan national football team will be brought to life in an upcoming graphic novel.

Authored by Michael Magnus Nybrandt and illustrated by Thomas Engelbrecht Mikkelsen, ‘Dreams in Thin Air’ raised 191,156 kroner on its Kickstarter campaign last week – well above its 180,000 kroner goal.

“Before the campaign there was just a small group of people who knew about ‘Dreams in Thin Air’,” Nybrandt told the Weekly Post. 

“But now news about the book has spread around the world and we have financed the publishing. If the campaign didn’t succeed, we would have had to postpone the publishing indefinitely. The crowdfunding also generated the possibility to publish in additional languages like English and French.”

Ready for the autumn
The next step is to get going on the illustration, design and translation in order to have the book ready for this autumn. There are ongoing talks with publishers and other partners who wish to be involved from all over the world.

“We didn’t expect so many people around the world would back this crowfunding campaign – it’s really funny to know that we’re going to send the book to Brazil, Australia and all over Europe when it’s finished.”

Started on a bicycle
It all started back in the 1990s when Nybrandt was on an adventurous cycling journey with a friend in Tibet and he dreamed he was managing the Tibetan national football team, which didn’t exist at the time due to China’s invasion and occupation of Tibet in 1950.
Suddenly, he was a man on a mission.

A few short years later, Nybrandt was not only managing the team – dubbed ‘The Forbidden Team’ because of the political implications involved – but had organised for Tibet to fly to Denmark to play Greenland in its first ever international match.

(Thousands turned up in Vanløse to watch the historic match – Photo: Dreams in Thin Air)

Chinese grumblings
The match was not without controversy, however, as China exerted pressure on Greenland and Denmark to cancel the match, arguing that Tibet was part of China.

China threatened to cancel a lucrative deal involving the importation of prawns from Greenland that it had just signed, and it also threatened Denmark that the match would have consequences for trade relations between the two nations. 

China even contacted the Danish football association, the DBU, in a bid to halt the game, but the DBU was not involved as it was an unofficial match. Neither Tibet or Greenland were members of FIFA.

Despite heavy pressure from China, the match went ahead on 30 June 2001 in front of a packed stadium in Copenhagen. Tibet lost the match 1-4, but it was a triumph that echoed across the world. For 90 minutes in Vanløse on that summer’s day, football was more than just a game.

His destiny
After five years of putting the book together, Nybrandt’s efforts are finally bearing fruit. It hasn’t been an easy path, but the inspiration drawn from the plight of the Tibetan people has steadied his resolve.

“That is my fuel. If from time to time I get a bit tired about this project, I read about a young Tibetan who self-immolated or how the Chinese authorities destroy Tibetan culture. Then I push myself to do even better.”

The book may be nearing completion, but for this Dane, Tibet is a journey that will never end.
“As the Buddhists say: ‘There is no road to happiness – happiness is the road’. I don’t think I’ll ever be finished with the Tibetan story – it’s my destiny.”

(Check out the below documentary 'The Forbidden Team', directed by Rasmus Dinesen and Arnold Krøjgaard)


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