The Bhutan Football Federation (BFF) and the education ministry officially launched the Bhutan Higher Secondary School Football Championship Programme (BHSSFCP) in Thimphu on April 9.
The three-year tournament will be coordinated by BFF and the Department of Youth and Sports (DYS) under the education ministry starting this month.
The competition which is in line with grassroots football development is expected to address the growing concerns of regional imbalance in terms of representation at the national level and prepare for the upcoming South Asia High School Football Championship.
The new tournament is expected to be more competitive. BFF will provide financial and technical support, whereas DYS will ensure logistic and administrative assistance.
BHSSFCP is only for boys, and all high school students (class XI and XII) are eligible to participate in it. However, schools having classes VII and above may also include students from class VII-X.
DYS Sports Administrator, Nima Gyeltshen, said that of the 82 HSS in the country, 59 have registered for the tournament so far. Each school should have a maximum of 18 players.
BFF will organise this tournament in three stages. In the first phase, the teams will play home and away league matches at the dzongkhag level in 28 clusters.
In the second phase, 22 teams from the dzongkhags will play a single league format in the Regional Higher Secondary Championship.
Seven teams selected from regional tournaments will play a league and knockout format in the National Higher Secondary Championship at a centralised venue. The winner will play against schools from seven other countries in the South Asia High School Football Championship hosted by Bhutan.
BFF’s President, Ugen Tsechup, said, “FIFA and AFC look at it as a promotion of football in the region as well as globally. Until we promote grassroots football, the prospect of eventually getting a good national team becomes limited.”
A similar championship is also proposed to be organised for girls.
Education Minister Jai Bir Rai said that education was not only about textbooks knowledge and it was essential to recognise and support children based on their interest. “Football is not only about winning and losing. More than that, it imparts knowledge about teamwork, sportsmanship, and exposure.”