The only recreational facility in Trashigang town, the Trashigang Sports Association hall, is closed for some religious programme for the coming week.   It is Tuesday, 7pm.

Around this time usually, the hall remains engaged with the town’s badminton enthusiasts.

Sonam Thinley, one of the regular players, has been receiving messages the whole day from his fellow players inquiring about the venue for the day’s game.

Now, in Sonam Thinley’s mind is Trashigang Middle Secondary School’s multi-purpose hall. The players have gathered at the hall already.

It’s been almost six years since the group has been playing together in Trashigang. Karma, 51, is the eldest in the group and he is an ardent sportsman. “I play to keep myself fit. I make sure I at least play for an hour everyday,” said the businessman. “Even at this age I am free of any kind of diseases and the credit for my healthy body goes to sports like this.”

The group consists of about 20 regular players. Most of them are office goers. To make the game interesting, they play on stakes.

Karma said that only when there is money, people take the game seriously. It has become a ritual to put in money. The interest among the participants grew by much after BOC opened the multi-sports hall in the town in December 2014 where at least three badminton courts can be accommodated.

Another player, Ugyen Dorji, said that there was a time when they would have to wait in a queue to get a chance to play at the school hall. “Although I personally feel comfortable here but the low celling and slippery floor is little difficult,” said that 32-year-old teacher. “But now most of us are adapted to play at the new hall which has all the facilities.”

The group mostly engages themselves in doubles format although a few do play singles as well. “Now only a few of us are here keeping badminton alive in Trashigang. Many don’t take interest in the game anymore,” said Ugyen Dorji.

Karma said that youth today do not take interest in games and sports. “But they don’t realise the importance of keeping their body healthy. By the time they realise the importance of health it will be too late.”

Sonam Thinley said that most of the youth are into football. “Also because badminton is an individual game, many not take the interest like in group games like football and archery.”

The group conducts frequent pickup tournaments to encourage more participation.

Karma said that the group is planning to organise an inter-dzongkhag championship this year.

Younten Tshedup | Trashigang