Oxygen tanks ready as Tibet team make history

Oxygen tanks ready as Tibet team make history

SHANGHAI - Agence France-Presse
Oxygen tanks ready as Tibet team make history

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

Lhasa, whose 735-million-yuan ($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 their modern Cultural and Sports Center stadium because of its dizzying altitude 3,658 metres (12,000 feet) 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 play-off.

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 1-0 on Oct. 29 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 the state 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.”