Lhasa to have oxygen breaks for teams

AFP
Lhasa Chengtou football club made history by becoming the first Tibetan side to reach China's professional league.
AFP

There may be mid-game oxygen breaks but no team will fancy a trip to sky-high Lhasa Chengtou next season after it made history by becoming the first Tibetan side to reach China’s professional league.

Lhasa, whose 735-million-yuan (US$110 million) stadium is the highest in China and one of the highest in the world, clinched promotion from China’s amateur league to the third tier along with five other sides.

But doubts surround whether Lhasa will be allowed to stage games at its modern Cultural and Sports Center stadium because of its dizzying altitude of 3,658 meters above sea level.

During home matches, players are allowed to use oxygen every 15 minutes from handheld canisters lined up on the side of the pitch to avoid the nausea and vomiting associated with altitude sickness.

Lhasa, whose players mostly come from areas of China outside Tibet, won promotion to League Two after beating Shenyang Dongjin 2-1 over two legs in a playoff.

The home leg was moved to a neutral venue in Huizhou, in southern China about 4,000 kilometers from Lhasa, supposedly because of problems with the pitch, though there were suspicions that it was more to do with the altitude.

Lhasa, which plays in a blood-orange kit, won 2-0 in the first leg and lost 0-1 in the return match at Shenyang to squeeze into the professional leagues.

“Football has deep foundations among the people in Tibet and it is absolutely the first sport,” Wang Dui, a senior club official, told Xinhua news agency.

“Go and have a look in the older part of town in Lhasa, you can see kids playing football everywhere in the alleys after school.

“Lhasa has its own street football culture,” Wang said.

Imaginechina

Football has a long history in Tibet Autonomous Region.

High hopes 

It will, however, not have it easy in the professional league, and questions swirl around whether the Chinese Football Association will allow games at the mountainside Lhasa stadium.

The venue, which also has a running track, can seat more than 20,000 people but Lhasa only gained CFA permission in August to play its games there.

Although Lhasa Chengtou was only formed in March, football has a long history in Tibet after it arrived in the remote region with the British army at the beginning of the 20th century.

Since then other teams from the Tibetan Autonomous Region have tried to make the step up to the pro ranks, but Lhasa Chengtou is the first to make the grade. 

The local government last year released plans to ramp up development of football in the region, in keeping with a national push led by President Xi Jinping.


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