Football: Ajit Bhujel may be an average student at studies, but he looks up to kicking his football dream high. He has played in dzongkhag and school team representing Lhuentse High School.

Although aware of limited opportunities in football in the country, the 16-year-old class XI students expect things to change in near future. Ajit is one of the 243 students from across the country who could make it to the national team.

The Bhutan Football Federation (BFF) is selecting football players for two categories, under 15 and under 17 national team. Each team will have 21 players including three goalkeepers.

“I got through two phases of selection and I’m positive of clearing the final phase,” he said. “This is the beginning of my football career.”

Former national coach, Chokey Nima, along with coaches from all 20 dzongkhags is in Gelephu to select the players. He said the entrance for this selection was open for all students. However whether one makes it to the final 21 will entirely depend on how the players perform on the field.

All 243 of them are recipient of dzongkhag grassroots level training. “Here we look at their technical and tactical skills, speed, explosiveness and cunningness in the game,” he said adding that cognitive skills are also vital in a football player.

Without undermining the skills, coaches are also after physically “giant” players. They say –big players make a difference while playing against international team.

“Without physic one can’t compete at the international level but having a sense of the game is equally important,” coach Chokey Nima said.

Following the second round of World Cup selection, he said, a lot of awareness has been created.

However there is no assurance that all the 42 players of the two selected categories will become national team players. “As much as the players themselves, much would depend on the coaches if these players would make the final cut,” said Chokey Nima.

The selection will continue until January 29. Then BBF will begin seeking admission for the players in Schools in Thimphu, after enrolling them in the BFF football academy at Changjiji. Parents’ permission will also be sought along with a meeting with the parents.

Earlier this month, BFF completed selecting 21 girls for under-14 and under-16 category in Tsirang. The girls will be kept at Setikharey academy.

“Selecting players is challenging. Some players who are already enrolled in academy might lose their place because of other better players,” Chokey Nima said.

Ajit idolizes national player Chencho Gyeltshen and wants to be like him.

Meanwhile, following a 10-day rigorous training BFF selected 23 women national team last week from about 90 women. They will soon play at the South Asia games.

Nirmala Pokhrel