The national football team made history again. And for the right reasons this time.
As the lowest ranked team in the FIFA ranking, we are known more for the 20-0 drubbing we suffered at the hands of Kuwait years ago than as a footballing nation. Yesterday, the national team shocked the world and redeemed national pride, as we comfortably beat Sri Lanka, a nation ranked 35 places above us on the FIFA ladder.
With a slim advantage from the first leg in Colombo, all eyes were on Bhutan again as we hosted the Lankan Lions. If there were skeptics, who thought the 1-0 win in Colombo was more luck than skills, the national team showed what they were made of, as they ran out 3-1 eventual winners. They made us proud and we are proud of our team.
Miracle, wonder, and historic were the words used to describe the win, as Bhutanese came in their thousands to support the national team at Changlimithang. It was no less than the nation coming together, as thousands more watched the game live, and followed closely on social and news media. The fans behaved as expected, the boys gave their best as we wanted, and we are in the second round of the 2018 World Cup qualifying round.
The game was worthy of a World Cup qualifying match in quality and a treat to the spectators, as Changlimithang was hosting a match of this status in a long time. There were no ugly moments to spoil the game. Not many qualifying games see only two yellow cards.
As we anxiously wait for the second round grouping and fixture to see whom we face, it is a good time to pause and look back at our football. Football is popular in the country. It has always been. In the past, Changlimithang was always packed on weekends. Whether an inter school contest or an open competition, there were players and spectators.
If the coming of internet and television had any major impact on our sports, we were not been able to ride on it. There are more fans following cash rich European leagues than home football. Local football clubs are struggling to keep a team, as players leave looking for other jobs. Football as a profession is unviable. There is no money in it.
With generous assistance, we see some development in facilities, but it is too little to encourage football or sports. The national team is participating in regional tournaments with limited training and exposure, as they have to attend class or go to work.
Yesterday’s is a big win for us, and we should be able to pick up from here. Without facilities, that includes salaries, it will be just numbers in a team. There is talent and willingness in the current squad. We should support them and football.
The road to Russia is long and winding; we have crossed the first hurdle. Even if we do not go very far, we have reasons to celebrate this win.