A football league without spectators

Heavy match schedule means most games will not be aired on BBS

Phub Dem | Paro

Although the opening game of Bhutan Premier League (BPL) at Woochu Sports Arena in Paro was screened live on BBS, it received a significant number of viewers, watching from the roadsides.

DeSuups on duty guarded all the entry point to the arena, but some fans even managed to enter the orchards overseeing the field.

Paro FC, in collaboration with BBS, will screen its home match Live from Paro.

But it is a bad year for the football enthusiast, and other clubs.

According to Bhutan Football Federation’s (BFF) media focal Phuntsho Wangdi, the federation tried to negotiate with BBS. However, due to heavy match schedule, which is about 56 matches, BBS did not have the slot to air all the games, he said.

“We have asked other clubs to explore the possibilities to screen their matches like Paro FC, as it was not possible for BBS to air all the matches. And we agreed to support them.”

He said that BFF was going to negotiate with BBS to screen some important matches after the second round.

The BPL is a source of sustainability for clubs, especially during the pandemic. Phuntsho Wangdi said that the payroll of the players, coaching fees and other management activities solely depended on the BPL for financial assistance.

For instance, there are about 100 referees with BFF, and their payroll depends on tournaments like BPL and other matches. BFF also prioritise the tournament primarily to allow local clubs to participate in international matches such as the AFC qualifiers next year and to select a strong national team, according to Phuntsho Wangdi. “Participation in international matches is essential as the clubs could earn good money, and it helped the local players in skill development.”

The restriction on foreign players due to Covid-19 protocol, according to BFF, was both a boon and a bane.

Phuntsho Wangdi said that the restriction could encourage local participation, but the competition and learning experiences won’t be the same without them. “There is an excitement in the game when there are foreign players.”

Each club can hire a maximum of four foreign players.

Paro FC’s technical director and head coach, Puspa Lal Sharma said that there was a difference in the level of play without the international players.

He said that the pandemic had some impact on the performance of the club as it has restricted players to practice as a team. “But the club has tailored made training for the players and the players had been practicing individually.”

Manager of Drukstar FC Sonam Choden said that the local players in her club could equally play as good as the international players.

The club had four foreign players last year.

BPL that usually begins in June was postponed due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus

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