Thinley Namgay   

Bhutan’s under (U)-20 national women’s football team will face defending champions India in the opening match of 2023  South Asian Football Federation’s (SAFF) U-20 Women’s Championship today at BSSS Mostafa Kamal Stadium in Dhaka, Bangladesh at 3pm (BST).

Organised by the SAFF, the fourth edition tournament has teams from Bhutan, India, Bangladesh, and Nepal.

Bhutan is featuring in the championship for the third time.  The girls couldn’t participate in 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Each country will play three games in the league round. The top two teams will play the final on February 9. All the games will be played at BSSS Mostafa Kamal Stadium.

Bhutan’s head coach Karma Dema said, “We are glad to participate in this SAFF Championship. We didn’t get much time to prepare for this tournament.”

She said the selection of the new squad took more than 15 days. However, Karma Dema said it is an opportunity for the girls to prepare for the upcoming AFC qualification match.

“Many of the players are new and will be playing their first international match. But we will do our best,” she said.

Captain Sonam Gaki Pelden said, “We didn’t prepare well. The games will be challenging, but we came with the intention to give 100 percent.”

Officials said they are expecting good games in the SAFF championship as all U-20 players have competed in the 2022 Bhutan National Women’s League. Officials said the national tournament lasted for around six months and their training has been on track.

Recently, the U-20 team played a friendly game against the shortlisted senior national women’s football team and lost 4-0.

So far, the host Bangladesh won the tournament twice.

Team Bhutan comprising 23 players and five officials landed in Bangladesh on January 31. The official training for the girls began on February 1.