Like everyone else around the world, we lost much sleep in these past weeks watching the popular football matches in Europe and America. As we get over the late-night hangovers it might be worth reflecting on what we learned from this exciting and entertaining experience.  

In the past, Bhutanese students have always had a good reputation outside the country. Our youth have excelled in academics as well as in sports. And we have never been found wanting for qualities like discipline and obedience. All this despite the fact that we have been bullied, insulted, and victimised in some places.  

The introduction of television in 1999 left one of the most positive impacts on Bhutanese sports particularly football. We saw an immediate professional improvement on the field. Sports have come a long way since then.

However, what is particularly worrying is that this is apparently changing evidently from more youth mainly in urban areas engaging in substance abuse and petty crimes such as battery. It is time to look at this change.

The new football academy in Changjiji, supported by FIFA, that began this April is a major milestone in our journey to improving the standards and quality of our sportsmen. The facility planned for women in Gelephu is needed urgently for we can’t afford to ignore the potential of our girls. These are worthy investments.

The clubs have academies reaching out to talents at an early age. Besides handling the ball, moulding their character and sportsmanship is equally important.

The recent football tournament matches showed us that it is important to maintain a good sporting spirit. Liverpool’s manager and players were applauded for remaining on the ground respecting Real Madrid’s victory. The team exited only after the winners of the ultimate football tournament of Europe lifted the trophy letting them have all the attention.

The pressure is heavy. We have seen them all: players who are effective in taunting others, players who have refined the art of faking convincing falls and injuries. Some are as good at provoking opponents as they are with the ball. The keyword here is discipline. And nerves become as important as skills.  

Bhutan may not be playing in those major international tournaments, not for a long time, but we have been venturing across our borders to participate in regional tournaments including the SAARC and AFC games. Our performance and behaviour in these tournaments are equally important.  

That is why sports are encouraged among youth. Apart from physical talent, it is an activity that builds personality and character. The major tournaments come once a year but we are required to call on such values and skills every day.

Trophies go to the winners. Self-esteem does not lead to success in life. Self-discipline and self-control do. This is the challenge ahead for the new Changjiji football academy and sports community to help inculcate them.