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A football league of a different kind

Many Bhutanese are playing the EPL fantasy league

Thinley Namgay

The English Premier League (EPL), a football competition in the United Kingdom is followed closely and with keen interest by football fans in the country.

In the 2019-2020 season, Liverpool Football Club (FC) is leading the competition with 12 points from four games. Manchester City FC is second with 10 points. Sergio Aguero  of Manchester City is the top scorer with six goals as of yesterday.

This is the real EPL.

There is another kind of EPL played in Bhutan like in many countries. It is the Fantasy Premier League. Fantasy football is a game in which participants gather an imaginary team of real life footballers and score points based on the performance of the players. At the start of the season, each manager is given 100 million pound sterling. The manager buys 15 players from the 20 teams in the league. A manager can select only three players from a single Premier League team.

There may not be trophy at the end of the season, but there are cash prizes weekly, monthly depending on which fantasy league a manager joins. This keeps the league alive and makes it more interesting. Cash prizes are paid weekly to table toppers in some fantasy leagues. Some wait till the end of the season to award a bulk prize.

There are several fantasy leagues in Bhutan. Bhutan Football Fantasy League, Fantasy Premier League, Druk Fantasy Premier League and EPL 2019/20 Bhutan are some of the leagues.

Yonten Jamtsho, a graduate joined a league with 20 teams. There is no cash prize, but the manager of the week gets his recharge vouchers. Yonten’s team, Weekly Data Fantasy is third. In the international fantasy league, he is in the 2,033,662nd position. Every manager that joins a league automatically becomes a member of the International Fantasy Premier League.

The Druk Fantasy Premier League 2019 -2020 had closed its membership registration on August 8 with 220 managers. There are no woman managers in the league. This league was created earlier this year on July 10. Each manager pays an entry fee of Nu 1,500. The top three winners will be selected  every month and will be awarded the cash prize of Nu 2,500, 2,000 and 1,500 respectively.

The top five winners after the season ends in May next year will be awarded with an attractive cash prizes. The first prize is Nu 94,500 followed by second and third with Nu 67,500 and 40,500 respectively. For fourth and fifth position, the prize is Nu 18,900 and 10,800 respectively.

Namkha Dorji is a football fan. He said he joined the fantasy football because of the love of the game. “We get heart throbs although it is just a fantasy.”

A Chelsea FC fan and footballer himself, Tshering said he joined a fantasy league not for the prize, but to make his weekends more fun. “We sit together and watch. When we have players playing, it adds to the entertainment,” he said.

When fantasy managers meet and talk, it sound like they discuss real football management.

Penjor manages Thotiree FC. He is not doing well as he languishes 34th in his league of more than 200 teams. “Every time I change my captain, he draws a blank,” said Penjor who captained Arsenal’s striker Lacazette and Totenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane in the last two weeks.

A league organised by an official in Zhemgang has about 200 members. Some are from Australia, India and in the Middle East. With 102 managers, it is one of the biggest league. The table topper in the league has 207 points. The last has 32 points after joining the league recently.

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