Proudly called the “Dragon Boys”, the Under-23 team led by Chencho Gyeltshen, contested box-to-box with the Nepal football team till the final whistle. It is the first squad to accomplish such a success, and settled for the silver medal.
Although football pundits normally emphasize on the difference between the home and away games, which causes mental and physical pressure on any team, however, the Bhutanese team were welcomed for their sportsmanship and good performances throughout the tournament.
Nepal team had the home field advantage with a stadium full of supporters roaring “Nepal! Nepal! Nepal!” The Bhutanese fans alongside a group Nepalese, who were returning the favor when Bhutanese supporters cheered for their team playing in Bhutan, supported and cheered for the Dragon Boys.
The match saw 3 goals in total, 2 of which were scored before the half time. The final goal stood as the decider, which came quarter-of-an-hour towards the end. The spectacle went beyond the turf, and turned into a matter of heart and national allegiance, as the home supporters and people of Nepal zealously congratulated Bhutan during and after the match, on Twitter and other platforms on the social media.
Bipin Dangol wrote, “Yes, you won our hearts! Well done, congratulations and all the best. Many love and regards from Nepal.” Nabin Khanal said, “Impressed by the new Bhutanese footballing generation, well played lads! Bhutan has shown it can compete with footballing giants of South Asia in competitive matches.” Abhushan Gautam said, “Nepal won the watch, Bhutan won our hearts.” “Absolutely you have won the Nepalese heart. We look to Bhutan as our own brothers. Cheers,” said Rabindra Adhikari.
Recollecting some of the loud cheers and occasional jeers, the Bhutan National Team thanked all the supporters. Before the match, Team Captain, Chencho Gyeltshen, spoke in Nepali to the Nepalese media about how Bhutan is being regarded as an underdog in the tournament and normally looked down upon. The team proved everybody wrong as it performed above expectation and advanced to the finals.
SAG football was established since 1984. The age limit for men’s Under 23 team is the same as that of football competitions at the Summer Olympics and Asian Games, wherein each team can have 3 over-age players included in the squad. Nepal and Pakistan share the highest gold medal tally, 4 gold medals each, in the SAG.