BFF waiting for government directives

Thinley Namgay 

Bhutanese football enthusiasts can now enjoy their favourite games with major European leagues resuming soon.

One of the most popular leagues with Bhutanese, the English Premier League (EPL) resumes on June 17. Aston Villa will take on Sheffield United on the first day while Arsenal will play Manchester City the next day.

All the 20 participating clubs have either completed 28 or 29 games of their 38 fixtures when the league came to a pause on March 11 in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic. There are 92 matches left in the league this season.

Liverpool FC leads the table with 82 points.

Italian Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora has confirmed that the top Italian league, Serie A would resume from June 20. The league was postponed since March 9 with Juventus leading the table with 63 points.

Spanish league La Liga will also begin from June 20 according to Leganes FC’s Manager Javier Aguirre.

Germany’s top football league Bundesliga was the first major football league in Europe to resume on May 16. The league is played behind closed doors and contact with the opponent before the match and handshakes with referee and match officials were restricted.

Only 213 people are allowed in the stadium, which included players, coaches, ball boys, photographers, media and other officials last month. Spectators were prohibited in the stadium for both home and away games.

Bayern Munich is leading the table with 70 points followed by Dortmund and RB Leipzig with 63 and 59 points respectively as of yesterday.

The new dates of the competitions organised by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) is not yet confirmed. The 2020 UEFA Champions League matches are still pending.

Back home the sporting environment has not changed much since the government put a temporary restriction on all contact games in March.

The government is still unsure when activities might resume.

Currently, athletes from 15 national federations, four associations, and 15 dzongkhag sports associations under the Bhutan Olympic Committee (BOC) are without work. All the planned activities, including major international competitions, are either cancelled or postponed.

Athletes are seen practising at home. Most of the sports federations and associations have started online coaching class to keep the athletes engaged. Bhutan Football Federation (BFF) has 13 registered clubs besides senior and junior national teams for both men and women. All the club players are currently without a job.

BFF’s media and marketing officer, Phuntsho Wangdi said that the Bhutan Premier League is on hold and the federation is waiting for directives from the government. He said that the federation expects to conduct the tournament in a closed-door without spectators.

He said that the league is essential for both the clubs and players. “Champions of the league get an opportunity to participate in the AFC qualifiers. Given the sponsorships, club players earn good salaries, and the prize money is also attractive.”

He said that the clubs would struggle if the tournament gets canceled. “Most of the national team players are also selected based on their performance from the league.”

Phuntsho Wangdi said that the AFC premier league and world cup qualifiers have begun in other Asian countries. “We already received directives from the AFC and FIFA on how to go ahead. If the government approves, BFF is ready to conduct the games as all precautionary measures are in place.”

Meanwhile, athletes are eagerly waiting for sporting events to resume.

National team’s defender, Jigme Tshering Dorjee said that he is currently self-training. “As a footballer, I just cannot stay at home.”

Boxer Tashi Wangdi said that he has been working on his technical skill at home. “When I went to Jordan for the Olympic qualifiers earlier this year, an American coach who works with Indian team pointed out some of my weaknesses. I am working on that for now.”