Lhakpa Quendren

SARPANG—As football fever takes hold in Sarpang, a glaring void in infrastructure threatens to pour cold water on the growing passion. With the onset of the monsoon season, football enthusiasts find their aspirations sliding through muddy fields due to the absence of improved playing grounds.

The recently-inaugurated Sarpang Monsoon Open Football Tournament at Shechamthang in Gakiling Gewog has drawn the attention of 17 teams hailing from Sarpang, Tsirang, and Thimphu. This sporting spectacle marks a significant milestone as the first major tournament hosted in the dzongkhag, or district, since the pandemic’s onset.

Committee member, Nabin Rai, underscored the tournament’s purpose of promoting sports in Sarpang and fostering community engagement.

“Majority of these teams are rooted in Sarpang,” he said, shedding light on the tournament’s local significance.

Yet, amidst this rising football fervour, the shortage of a suitable playing field reverberates as a persistent disappointment.

Rai said, “While neighbouring dzongkhags enjoy improved facilities, our own ground quality remains subpar.”

The absence of even a single ground with artificial turf for football in Sarpang stands in stark contrast to other regions, painting a picture of an unmet need.

In preparation for the event, the organisers allocated approximately Nu 100,000 for ground maintenance, emphasising their commitment to elevating the experience.

Rai said the skewed distribution of infrastructure development projects, asserting, “Although the dzongkhag administration is situated here, projects often gravitate toward Gelephu.”

Ash Man Rai, another committee member, said that they have lodged appeals with the dzongkhag administration and municipal office to include the establishment of a turf ground in future plans.

“The dzongkhag administration has shown unwavering support,” he acknowledged, envisioning a brighter future for local football enthusiasts.

Players, echoing this sentiment, underscored the importance of an artificial turf in enhancing sporting opportunities. The current lack of such facilities transforms the playing field into a quagmire during rainy spells, hampering gameplay.

For player Bijay Rai, 20, the absence of a turf inhibits the team’s performance, “Having a turf ground would allow us to showcase our talents and performance.”

The significance of these facilities goes beyond tournaments, extending to fostering relationships among teams and providing recreational spaces. Raju Suna, another player, emphasised the role of football in entertainment and community bonding, “Improving our playing field would ensure we can engage regularly.”

As the tournament unfolded, it garnered a sizeable audience of about 500 spectators across the dzongkhag, including travelers on the Gelephu-Sarpang highway.

Shechamthang’s shopkeepers also took time off to bear witness to the matches.

Harka Bahadur Subba, a spectator from Singye, expressed the collective zeal for football, saying, “Without a proper place, we have to stand throughout the game in the rain. People are keen on watching the matches.”

The tournament, which commenced on August 5, promises to culminate in an exhilarating climax on September 22, with a cash prize of Nu 70,000 awaiting the victorious team. Amidst the enthusiasm and camaraderie, the plea for enhanced sporting facilities remains a rallying cry in Sarpang’s football landscape.