Yearender/Sports: The kick generated by the horse lingered into the year of the sheep and football, once again, was in the limelight.

Bhutan’s qualification into the second round of the World Cup qualifiers could have been the sport highlight last year.

However, after conceding 60 goals in 13 games played last year, Bhutan’s national football team and the federation both came under public scrutiny. The 60 goals conceded by the team coincided with the nation’s festive observance of the 60th birth anniversary of The Fourth Druk Gyalpo and it generated huge hype on social media.

However, football also got embroiled in controversy. The Japanese head coach, Norio Tsukitate, spurred several inquisitions against the federation’s management after his untimely departure. Norio Tsukitate who took over the national team for the second round of the World Cup qualifiers was sacked midway during the match against Maldives after falling out with team manager Hishey Tshering.

The head coach was known for his rigid conduct of the team. The friction between the coach and the management was visible to many football enthusiasts. After nine months of the coach’s bittersweet relation with the team and the federation, he was “relieved” from his duties on October 9.

The team donned the moniker, The Dragon Boys, after carrying the nation from the very rock bottom of the FIFA Coca-Cola world rankings to 163 in April. However, after failing to register a single win in 13 international games, the country today stands at 192 with just 49 points.

From the bigger grounds to the mini pitch, the year of the sheep saw new champions crowned in the national futsal league. Paro Yuljung FC defeated Yeedzin FC to claim their first league title.

FC Terton emerged victorious after the two-month-long national league tournament. Six teams from Thimphu, Paro, Phuentsholing and Punakha participated in in the league. The league also saw some eight foreign players involved signalling a new development in football in the country.

The second most popular game in the country, basketball, also enjoyed a good share of the spotlight in the year of the sheep. Several basketball tournaments were organized to promote the game in the country including the revival of the veteran’s tournament.

Despite concerns about the Swimming Pool Complex basketball court’s structural integrity, aficionados continued to flock the complex.

Overcoming a 0-1 deficit in a best of three series, team Jachungs defeated Jaguars to claim the A league championship title in March. Jachungs also clinched the prestigious coronation cup title and Pamos were declared the winners for the women’s category.

In bodybuilding, Lobzang Tshering defeated all three former Mr Bhutans in the heavyweight category to claim the title for the first time. Kinley Wangmo became the first Miss Fitness Bhutan defeating a more popular figure in women fitness, Yeatoeh Lhamo Panjore.

The Bhutanese bodybuilders bagged a gold and a silver medal each at the 49th Asian bodybuilding championship in Uzbekistan. Sangay Tsheltrim won a gold and a silver medal and was also crowned the Asian Champion in athletic physique. He bagged silver in fitness physiques open category. Sangay Tsheltrim is the only male athlete in the championship to win two medals.

Similarly, Bhutan Judo Association, one of the newly formed sports associations in the country got their first international medals at the 2015 Jagsport Judo Invitational tournament for cadets, in Singapore.

The four Bhutanese judokas who took part in the tournament returned with two gold and a silver and bronze each.

The national sport of archery, saw a few changes in the age long tradition of the game. Bhutan indigenous games and sports association (BIGSA) banned the use of Monal pheasant feathers as fletches on traditional arrows in national tournaments.

Of 22 teams registered for the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck memorial national tournament, 14 boycotted the tournament for the ban.

In order to facilitate Bhutanese archers to be at par with the international standards and to compete at an international level, Bhutan Olympic Committee (BOC) approved the use of accessories on compound bows during the 19th Yangphel Open archery tournament last year.

The use of accessories, such as triggers and scopes on compound bows, was disallowed in the country in order to preserve the tradition with the usage of the indigenous bow. Today most of the compound bow archers are seen using the accessories.

Team DGPC defeated Norlah to win the illustrious Druk Wangyal National Archery Tournament. A total of 31 teams took part in the tournament, the highest in the history of the competition.

In martial arts, Chukha dzongkhag’s taekwondo association dominated the taekwondo discipline by winning both the major taekwondo events conducted in the sheep year.

With eight gold, 11 silver and four bronze medals, the association won the second national black belt senior and junior taekwondo championship held in Thimphu. The team also won the Indo-Bhutan Taekwondo Championship organized by the Phuentsholing Taekwondo Club on December 18.

Meanwhile, Mikyo Dorje, a tenth grade student of St. Jospeh’s School, North Point in Darjeeling became the first Bhutanese to win the coveted Depelchin gold medal and the rare White Coat.

Mikyo Dorje was conferred the White Coat for excellence in sports early in May last year while he received the medal in October. Mikyo Dorjee is the only student to have been bestowed with two prestigious awards in a year in the 127 yearlong history of the school.

Younten Tshedup