Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

The final of the women’s football tournament in Phuentsholing yesterday saw Phuentsholing come to life after a long time.

Thousands of spectators endured the scorching heat as women from Gedu College of Business Studies (GCBS) and Yonten Kuenjong Academy (YKA) battled it out on the ground.

GCBS won 5:2. However, participants said it was more about having fun than winning. The tournament organised without charging any fees by Phuentsholing Sports Association (PSA) saw a record number of participants of 15 teams.

Woman of the Tournament, Gaki Dem

The final yesterday also saw two outstanding players, Gaki Dem, 34, a lecturer of GCBS, who was awarded the Woman of the Tournament for her outstanding skills and unmatched scoring record of eight goals in the tournament.

Her team consisted of college students and lecturers. 

“So, we thought we would not win, but came to give our best to the game,” Gaki Dem said, adding that the YKA girls were better in skills and stamina.

Woman of the Match Geeta Devi

The lecturer said that she didn’t get to play football much in her younger days. 

“For me, the Woman of the Tournament award is a lifetime achievement.”

Women’s participation in football has improved, she said. 

“It is not anymore men’s sport as perceived in the past.”

The Woman of the Match was bagged by YKA’s Geeta Devi, 19, a class 12 student. She has been one of the favourites throughout the entire tournament.

Geeta Devi gives credit to the team’s manager (coach) and YKA teacher, who motivated her throughout the tournament.

“Initially, my family was against me playing because they thought I would get injured,” she said. “But my mother supported me.”

Geeta Devi, who is from Samdrupjongkhar, said that there were people who are not comfortable with women taking football seriously. But she will continue to play throughout her life, she said.

“I learned the skills during the matches with very supportive team members,” she said.

YKA’s team manager, who is warden and sports teacher in the school, Drakpa Balu said his team was “little nervous.”

“Two players were injured and our main goalie didn’t play today,” he said, adding that the goalie didn’t come to play in the finals because her family didn’t allow her. “We tried our best to bring her but we failed.”

For many spectators like Drakpa Balu the match was exciting. He said such tournaments for women should be organised more often to bring women into the mainstream sports.

“We would like to thank Bhutan Football Federation (BFF) and PSA for this opportunity,” the YKA coach said.

Meanwhile, the tournament started on July 2.

“Our women played when Phuentsholing was recording 37 degrees Celsius,” a spectator said.

“Surprisingly, the crowd was very encouraging throughout. People brought umbrellas and watched the games under the rain or the scorching sun,” another said.

PSA general secretary Sonam Lhagyel said: “It has been overwhelming to see such a huge crowd support and overwhelming participation in the first ever women’s football tournament in Phuentsholing. It encourages us more to be of service to the community.”

Meanwhile, the winning team, GCBS was awarded Nu 50,000 as cash prize and the runners, YKA was awarded Nu 30,000. Perfect TMT, Chogshey Enterprise, Drangchu Beverages, AB Enterprise, and Tamshing Enterprise supported the tournament. BFF was the main sponsor. 

The veteran open football tournament is underway. An open football tournament and departmental tournament will also be held this year.