Bhutan’s under-23 football team did us proud at the 13th South Asian Games in Nepal yesterday. Although gold wasn’t to be ours the spectacular performance by the boys until the very end will be remembered and talked about for a long time. The remarkable perseverance and respect and discipline that the boys displayed touched the hearts of the spectators. One fan from Nepal wrote after the game: “Respect Bhutan! Thank you for capturing a good moment with us…You may not have won gold but have achieved golden hearts from the Nepalese fans.” Bhutanese people, at home and abroad, will always remember the kind of support that the team received through all the matches that led to the finals.
What was clearly evident yesterday was the quality of football that has grown rapidly in the country over the years. The team was even very confident of winning the game with the host country. Once a minnow in the region, Bhutan is today a force to be reckoned with. Our games with regional giants India and Nepal in recent years stand testimony to the growth of football in the country. For the fans at home, yesterday’s game was something of a feast to the soul. They did not mind that Bhutan lost the opportunity for gold; the kind of record with which the team entered the finals mattered. It was nothing short of stellar. Except with Nepal, Bhutan had not lost to any participating country.
Such moments are important and we must make the most of it. We often fail to capitalise on our small such victories. Even as we know there is little to be had from the act, some quickly begin blaming the players and the federation. We also know such things can’t be stopped. Emotions run high, not least among the fans who expect a lot from the team at the international games. But what we must know is that seizing on these small opportunities will do us well in the long run. There are many young talents in Bhutan’s football. They must be nurtured and groomed well because sports can achieve a lot for the country. Where our small military and economic powers limit our representation in the region and beyond, we can more than make up for through sports. Developing sports will be difficult but it is vitally necessary. And that will come only with investment.