When Michael Nybrandt one night dreamt that he would be the manager of the Tibetan soccer team, he decided to pursue that dream.
But it would not have come true had it not been for his fellow students at Kaospilot. Now he is making a graphic novel about the Tibetan adventure to inspire other people to dream big.
“What would you rather tell your grand children?
That you created a soccer team in Tibet or that you made an advertising company?”
When one of Michael Nybrandt’s fellow students at Kaospilot asked him this question before the final exam project, his doubts evaporated.
- At this point the project in Tibet was a blurry, black whole of unknown for me. I will sound really old now, but at that time there was no Internet in the Tibetan community, I could fax someone, or write an actual letter. I didn’t know much about if this could actually come true. But I decided to go for the idea.
This was a dream that had followed Michael for the last three years. But to take the leap and actually go for it took courage, not to mention support and inspiration from his fellow kaospilots.
Monks playing soccer awoke the dream
It all started in the mountains of Tibet.
- I was fascinated by the Tibetan culture, I wanted to meet the Tibetan people, and see how they cope with daily life. So I decided to go there on a bicycle adventure.
On this trip Michael stayed in a monastery where he played soccer with the monks.
- So I found out that they knew about soccer. And then one night I dreamt that I was the manager of the Tibetan national football team!
This was really some dream, because at the time a national Tibetan soccer team didn’t even exist. Tibet is not recognized as an independent state, and many Tibetans live in exile.
The joke was taken seriously
When Michael got back from the trip, he started at Kaospilot. At the beginning of the first semester everyone made a proactive plan for what they wanted to do and achieve during the three years at the education.
- I said: “I want to be the manager of the Tibetan national soccer team”. In the beginning I said it as kind of a joke. But people took me seriously, and at some point the principal at the time, Uffe Elbæk, said to me: “if you want to be the manager of the Tibetan soccer team, you need to start planning.”
And then; at the third year of Kaospilot his friend asked the right question, when Michael was to choose his final exam project. The result was that Michael went to the Tibetan community in India where Tibetan exiles live and have an exile government. Here he made a feasibility study on the Tibetan soccer culture.
Dalai Lama’s sister helped
- I presented the results of my study for the Tibetan exile government. And I also presented my idea of making a Tibetan national soccer team. The Tibetan people stopped dreaming at some point, because they couldn’t go home. So I thought making this come true was a way to give the Tibetan youngsters in India hope and dreams.
Michael was doing the best he could at the meeting, however there were people in the exile government who were not too positive about the idea.
- They were quite conservative. But in the tea break I talked to Dalai Lama’s sister who was more positive. She was the person to talk to at this time, and she said she would help us.
- So the project was on, and then the challenges really started! I had to convince a lot of people in the exile community that it was a good idea.
Exam went horribly
- After a while I went home to do the exam. It went horribly, and I got a very bad grade. But I got a lot of critique that I used in my work after.
- And I was very lucky with the timing of it all. When I went home, Dalai Lama visited Denmark and there was a picture taken of us with the first Tibetan soccer jersey, so people saw that “okay, the soccer team will actually happen.”
The next big step in the project was to organize a match, so Michael and the team arranged a match against Greenland, taking place in Denmark.
- I had many challenges at this time. One was that I was just out of school. But there was only one way – and that was forward! While I was at Kaospilot I knew that it would either be huge or fail big time. But I dared to be a fool if I failed. I was confident, but at the same time very humble to this project. I worked hard, and I was not afraid. And it meant a lot that my teammates, teachers, and the principal never doubted my project.
Many political and practical challenges emerged during the organising of the match, but in the end the game was a great success with 5000ecstatic spectators.
Change of path
Michael is a graphic designer and when he started at Kaospilot, he thought that he wanted to make his own company. The Tibetan national soccer team really changed his carrier. He has worked with fundraising since, among others for UNICEF and Save the children.
- I think my travel had a purpose. Not only did it change my carrier path. I met my wife when I went to Hamburg for an international tournament with the soccer team. We now live together in Copenhagen with our two kids.
A graphic novel that should inspire
- I have been to companies and schools to tell about the project and my story. I can see that it inspires people, and I think it is a good, universal story. Therefore I decided to write it down. But I didn’t really feel that it got the right expression when I ‘just’ wrote it. So I found the graphic novel, which is a media that can emphasise my story, and I found this talented illustrator who has a style that is just my taste. So now we are making a graphic novel called “Dreams in Thin Air”.
Michael is still the international coordinator for the Tibetan national soccer team, and he would also like to wake awareness about the team and the cause.
- The women’s team is really getting good now. They just won a match in India. The men’s team has been to Europe five times since the first match against Greenland.
- I also hope that my story and this book will inspire people to start at Kaospilot.
It was the best three years of my life; I wouldn’t have made this project if I hadn’t taken this education. And I got some really good friends who I still have now 15years after I graduated.
You can support the Tibetan soccer team and the graphic novel “Dreams in Thin Air” on Kickstarter.com:
Text by Lotte Rystedt, journalist at Kaospilot