Thinley Namgay 

Bhutan under(U)-15 national women’s football team will play the opening game of the SAFF U-15 Women’s Championship against host Bangladesh on November 1 coinciding with the coronation day of His Majesty The King.

Team Bhutan comprising 23 players and four officials landed in Bangladesh yesterday for the tournament after almost three years break from the international competition.

Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal are participating this time. The trio will play each other twice between November 1 and 11.  The team with the highest points will be declared the winner of the league.

Players were selected from 20 dzongkhags during the winter football camp conducted by the Bhutan Football Federation at Gelephu Women’s Football Academy in December last year.

Head Coach Ngawang Yangchen said, “Players are young, competent and enthusiastic to play the game. The level of excitement is high. I am confident and hoping to win the tournament.”

She said the regular training at the Gelephu Academy had been ongoing for almost a year, but intensive practice for the SAFF championship was held for three months.

The players are all students and had to go to school in the morning and train only after 5pm.

The U-15 skipper Kelden Wangmo, 15, said, “I am expecting to win this year’s trophy. There are only three teams with new players and there is a possibility.”

“Players are assertive. We have had good training.  This is the moment for us to apply all the skills we acquired,” Kelden Wangmo said.

SAFF U-15 Championship has seven member countries. The two-time champions, India, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Pakistan withdrew. The Maldives has never participated in the tournament.

Bhutan hosted SAFF U-15 Championship twice in 2018 and 2019. Bhutan has a good record in the championship so far. In 2017 and 2018, Bhutan stood third. In 2019, Bhutan was fourth.

The 2020 and 2021 championships had to be cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.