Many of the football and futsal players at Changlimithang stadium said that playing football is not safe when archery matches are taking place only a metre away.
The danger surrounding archery, the national game, is a cause of concern for many sports players, enthusiasts and spectators alike. Even the residents living nearby the archery ranges question the safety of the game as arrows shot from compound bows can be as fatal as bullets fired from guns.
The football players that this paper spoke to said they have seen arrows from the archery range in Changlimithang landing on the football ground, and luckily the arrows did not hit any person.
But not everyone is as fortunate as arrows do sometime hit people. Recently, in Shari village in Samar Gewog, Haa, a-10-year-old boy was hit by an arrow on his head. He fought hard for his life at hospitals in India and Bhutan, but succumbed to his injuries.
The General Secretary, Bhutan Archery Federation (BAF), Lhagey Tshering, said the board has conducted a meeting on the safety measures while playing the archery at the Changlimithang archery range. From next month, BAF will teach the safety technique for people using compound bows. They are also setting up a signboard detailing the ‘do’s and don’t’ while playing archery.
He said BAF has proposed to raise the safety wall of the football ground to 15 metres. However, the safety is not guaranteed as the increase in the height of the wall alone will not secure the archery range.
“One of the important safety measure implemented during the tournament is there will be no consumption of the alcohol and drugs by the participants. BAF has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on anti doping, like no use of drugs during the archery tournament,” Lhagey Tshering said.
He said there has been no incident of people being hit by arrows in Thimphu town. He said such incidence happen in other dzongkhags and so BAF will also train the people who use compound bows in the 20 dzongkhags in order to reduce the accident rate.
A Drukpol Club player, Namgay Tshering, 22, said it is very risky to play football when there is an archery match taking because the distance of the archery range and the football field is close together. He said the arrows from the archery range have hit the football ground on more than one occasion.
“There is a safety wall but it does not give 100% safety. The wall should be raised much higher,” Namgay said, adding that the archery range should be relocated to a safe place, out of reach of playgrounds residential areas.
A regular futsal player, Sherub, 21, said it is more risky to play futsal as the archery safety wall sometimes does not serve its purpose. He said the safety wall should be raised higher or the direction of the archery range should be change. “I have seen on several times, the arrow landing on the football ground. It is not safe and the distance is also much closer between the archery range and the futsal ground,” Sherub stated.
A regular football player, Pema, 24, said the distance between the archery range and the football field is short, a huge risk for the football players. The archery range in Changlimithang is precariously located near recreational parks, sports ground, and near roads which puts motorists and pedestrians at risk too. “Till now, we have no incident of the arrows hitting the people, but we cannot say, because I have seen an arrow landing on the football ground,” Pema said.