COVID-19 delays sporting events

Thinley Namgay

Major sporting events in the country are on hold following an American tourist testing positive for COVID-19 and several Bhutanese tested for the virus.

The finals of the Mewang Gyalsey Traditional Archery Tournament is postponed. The finals between team Duktip from Trashiyangtse and Orong gewog, Samdrupjongkhar, was supposed to held on March 7 and 8.

Officials from Bhutan Indigenous Games and Sports Association (BIGSA) said that until further notice from the government, they cannot confirm the exact date of the final match.

The two teams booked the finals after winning the semi-finals match on March 2.  From the Pool A, Duktip defeated Chang Gewog. Orong Gewog beat Norlha from the Pool B.

Most of the football events are also delayed.

The 2020 edition of the oldest football tournament in the country, the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck Memorial Gold Cup, was cancelled long before the first case of coronavirus was reported.

Media and Marketing Officer with Bhutan Football Federation (BFF), Phuntsho Wangdi, said that the duration specified for the Gold Cup was over.  “Even if the situation gets better, we cannot conduct the Cup this year due to the upcoming sports events.”

BFF postponed the tournament in February this year after the health ministry asked the federation to extend the tournament until the situation improves.

A total of 10 teams had registered for the knockout tournament which otherwise would have kicked off on February 12, at the Phuentsholing Sports Association ground. BFF planned to play the final game coinciding with the birth anniversary of His Majesty the King on February 21.

Nepal’s Gorkha Boys Sporting Club, Jaigaon’s Youth Sports Club, Gokulam FC from Kerala, Manipur’s NESU Club, United Brothers FC from Kalimpong, and Delhi’s Sudeva Moonlight FC are the six International teams who registered for the tournament.

Bhutanese teams includes, defending Champions Paro FC, Thimphu City FC, Ugyen Academy FC, and Phuentsholing Sports Association team.

BFF’s Media and Marketing officer, Phuntsho Wangdi also said that COVID-19 has affected the ongoing Bhutan Super League.  “Few of the matches have been postponed. BFF Academy FC and College of Science and Technology (CST) FC were supposed to play the match yesterday at Changlimithang, but it was cancelled.”

Apart from the football tournament, other events such as Asian Football Confederation (AFC) international women’s day celebration yesterday at Punakha was called off.

“We were supposed to implement a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) project whereby a resource person from Malaysia was supposed to come and start the project, but due to the present condition, it was postponed until further notice,” Phuntsho Wangdi said.

Phuntsho Wangdi also said that the BFF was worried about the 2020 BOB Bhutan Premier league visa for foreign players if the situation does not improve. “We are hoping that the current situation get better so that clubs can bring in foreign players for more competitive tournaments.”

Official from Bhutan Olympic Committee said that the COVID-19 has not delayed their planned activities as of yesterday.

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