Running and jumping in their traditional attire, the students of Merak Primary School in Trashigang welcomed the return of annual school sports meet last week.

The event was conducted for the first and the last time on November 11, 2013 to celebrate the birth anniversary of His Majesty The Druk Gyalpo.

But because of the lack of a proper school ground and also due to the harsh weather conditions, no sports festival was observed in the gewog.

However, after four years, on the request from the students and after observing genuine interest in games and sports among the students, the school administration decided to conduct the event at the school this year.

Jigme Phuntsho has been waiting for the day.

“I was wondering what would it be like to be a part of something that I had only heard of from my brothers,” said the 16-year-old.

Given the lack of a suitable ground and the geographical and climatic challenges in Merak, which is located at an altitude of 3,500 metres above sea level, the event was expected to be a low-key affair.

Preparations for the event began a week ago. Students and teachers were involved in resurfacing the area near the academic block.

A week later, when the day of the event came, Jigme Phuntsho wanted to take part in all the categories available. However, the teachers had already categorised the groups based on their age and class. He could only take part in the jumps category. He bagged the first position in high jump.

“I was very happy to be a part of the sports day. My happiness doubled when I won a cup for coming first in high jump,” he said. “If there was a football match, I’m sure my team would have come first.”

The only football ground, which is a pastureland some 10 minutes’ walk away from the school, is not an ideal space. Although the natural grass on the ground gives it a Wembley look from afar, the gradient is a problem.

“I want to become a professional footballer,” said Jigme Phuntsho. The Class-VI student has only heard of the Bhutanese football star Chencho Gyeltshen. “I might not be able to play like Chencho, but I want to practise and be like him one day.”

Milan Gurung, a teacher at the school who looks after the sports affairs, said that the students have shared their interest in sports and that if they are groomed well they could make fine athletes in the future.

“These students are fast learners. We just have to teach them the basics and they pick it up from there,” said Milan Gurung.

A futsal ground was recently developed next to the assembly ground. The ground remains occupied most of the time.

Without other recreational opportunities in the gewog, most of the students are seen in the school compound even during holidays, especially on the new futsal ground.

Younten Tshedup