The national team’s members that this paper talked to said that more support is required to motivate and promote football in Bhutan. They said sponsorship, training, exposure, and football academies are needed to enhance football skills and raise the standard of the game.
Biren Basnet, 21, a midfielder with the national football team, and also with Thimphu City FC, said more sponsors and members of the public need to come onboard to support the national squad. He said the technical and financial support would encourage the younger generation of Bhutanese players to take a keen interest in becoming professional footballers.
“We got good equipment this time, but we need better equipment. Bhutan Football Federation (BFF) needs to conduct more tournaments outside the country to gain more exposure,” Basnet said. He added that more financial support needs to come from the private and corporate sectors for the national football team.
Kuenga Gyeltshen, 23, the left midfielder with the National Football Team and also with FC Tertons, said there is a need to conduct football trainings on a regular basis. “It will improve our football players. We need more support from the public since when we get more support from public, it gives us the encouragement and motivation to play football,” Kuenga said.
He added that Bhutanese footballers should be given refresher training courses outside country to gain exposure. He said football tournaments, like the King’s Cup in Bhutan attract and inspire the players.
An attacking midfielder and the goal scorer during the first leg of the qualifiers at Colombo, Sri Lanka, Tshering Dorji, 20, is with Thimphu City FC. He said, “In Bhutan, there are only two football academies. More academies need to established across the country to have good football players in the future.” He also said the BFF needs to secure more sponsorship to improve the game.
The center forward with the National Football Team, Chencho Gyeltshen, 19, currently signed by a Thai Premier League football club, Buriram United, scored two goals in the second leg of the World Cup qualifying match against Sri Lanka in the Changlimithang National Studium, Thimphu.
He said although the football culture in Bhutan is rising, more support needs to come in, as it would mean more opportunities for the youth to take up football as their profession.
The center defender with the national football team, Jigme Tshering Dorji, 20, who also plays with Thimphu City FC, said more financial support from the government, private and corporate sectors in Bhutan would help in hiring professional coaches and players to build and strengthen future Bhutanese football teams.
The Head Coach of the National Football Team, Chokey Nima, said there is a need for more football clubs, quality club tournaments, good grassroots programs and good youth development stages, like football academies.
He said, “We need to market good players in the neighboring countries to play in quality competitions.” He added there needs to be development in other areas, like skills enhancement of managers, coaches and match officials.
A pilot by profession, the Captain of the national team, Karma Shedrup Tshering, 25, said football as a viable career option is slowly taking roots. “If we make football a profession then people can really concentrate on football. They can give 100% concentration on the football.”
The Team Manager of the National Football Team and also BFF Vice President, BFF, Hishey Tshering, said that a lot of people are now interested in football.
“We are getting people at grassroots level, like in the Changjiji Football Academy. Many of our today’s national team members had also stayed in the academy. It proves that if there is a small investment, we can nurture talents. Unfortunately due to the lack of resources and equipment, we take only a limited number of young players in the football academy.”
BFF President, Ugen Tsechup Dorji, said sponsorship from the private and corporate sectors, and providing employment opportunities to all players who make it to international team will encourage the youth to play football.
“The youth will realize that football is a game that will earn their living,” he said. The President said that second important factor should be building up very strong grassroots youth programs, which involves the education ministry, through the school programs, and supports the youth who have the potential. “In these two ways, we can strengthen football in Bhutan,” the BFF President said.