Football: The Bhutan national football team will host neighbours India for a training match, scheduled for August 13 at the Changlimithang Stadium in Thimphu.

To prepare the team for the upcoming AFC Asian Cup qualifiers playoff round in September, the Bhutan Football Federation (BFF) has organised the training match.

BFF general secretary Ugyen Wangchhuk said that the match would be  good exposure for the young players who were recently selected for the national team.

A total of 13 new players were selected during the recent national team selection in Thimphu.

“It is also an opportunity for football enthusiasts to see some international games at home,” said the general secretary.

The two teams have faced each other in several South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) tournaments before. One of the notable performances from the Bhutanese team against the Blue Tigers was during the 2008 SAFF championship in Maldives and Sri Lanka.

In a very competitive semi-final game, the Bhutanese side faltered in the dying minutes of the match when they lost 2-1 to India. However, the Indians were defeated by a lone goal by host Sri Lanka in the finals.

Head coach with the national team, Pema, said that after the 2008 SAFF game, performance of the Bhutanese team against India started deteriorating.

“Maybe because most of the senior players on the team had retired and the team couldn’t perform to their ability against India in the following tournaments,” said Pema.

However, this time Pema is optimistic about the friendly match against India. The coach said that with the recent performance of the Dragon Boys during the World Cup qualifiers, players have gained crucial experience and exposure for international tournaments.

“They have undergone many practises over the year and therefore, I hope the performance to be better this time from our team,” he said.

Most of the national players are currently engaged in the on-going national league, which ends on August 11.

Pema said that since most of the players are engaged in the league, physically they should be ready for the friendly. “I would like to focus more on the technical and tactical aspects during our week-long training we’ve before the game.”

Some of the big names in the defence line will be missing for the match. Kinley Wangchuk and Chimi Dorji will miss the game due to injury.

However, Pema is hopeful that his new players will rise to the occasion and perform to fill in the voids. “These young players are talented and since this is a home game, they should be performing better.”

Meanwhile, the Indian team is currently training in Delhi. The squad will arrive in the country on August 8.

Younten Tshedup