… Without international match for more than three years  

Thinley Namgay  

More than three years without an international game, the senior national men’s football team is preparing for the much-awaited Three Nations Cup 2023 in Nepal.

The national team had not participated in  a single international competition or a friendly since 2019 because of the Covid-19 pandemic disruptions of sporting activities. The last international appearance was the two-legged game against Guam in 2019 where Bhutan lost 5-1 on aggregate.

Midfielder  Orgyen Wangchuk Tshering said,: “Since we haven’t played any international games in recent years, we have a lot to prove.  We have a young squad this time. So, we’ll only be improving game after game. We’re very excited.”

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to finally be able to prove that we’re a much-improved side,”  Orgyen said.

The upcoming tournament starts on March 22. It will feature Bhutan, host Nepal, and Laos.  Bhutan  will face Laos in the opening match. All teams will play two matches in the league. Finals will be played based on the league’s performance.

Another national player Tsenda Dorji said that everybody is serious about training. “We are eagerly waiting for the kick-off date. It has been almost two months into training both in the pitch and gym.”

Tsenda said that international matches are crucial for the national team. “Players get exposure and experience.”

In January this year, 30 players were selected for the national team.  The team has a blend of both seniors and new players.

Many say that the upcoming tournament will be competitive as the FIFA ranking of Bhutan, Laos, and Nepal are almost similar. Bhutan is ranked 185th, while Nepal and Laos rank 175th and 187th,  respectively.

Tandin Dorji, Kelzang Jigme, and Santa Kumar Limboo of Ugyen Academy FC, Kinzang Tenzin and Pema Zangpo of BFF Academy, and Kinga Rabgay

Transport United FC are the new Dragons.

Thimphu City FC’s Karma Shedrup Tshering and Tenzin Thinley, Transport’s Hari Gurung, Kinga Wangchuck and Jigdrel Wangchuk are out of the team.

The senior national team will also play in the 2023 SAFF Championship in India in June and two more  international  friendly games.