Football: The journey of Bhutan’s national football squad through the World Cup Qualifiers has not been easy.

Considered to be one of the worst footballing nations in the world, the journey of this young team started off with a historic win against Sri Lanka in the first round of the World Cup Qualifiers in March.

The win put the lowest ranked Bhutan to 163, the highest jump ever by a country in the April edition of the  FIFA/Coca-Cola World ranking.

Victory against Sri Lanka pumped Bhutan’s hope by much and the players became national heroes overnight.

But the national players are all very young and inexperienced compared with the teams they had to face. A good number of national players were made up of students and professionals in different fields.

21-year-old Biren Basnet of the national squad is a second year student of Royal Thimphu College  (RTC). He has for the time being quit college to play for the nation.

“When I was in college I was also playing for my club. It was difficult managing time between studies and football,” he said. “After consulting with parents and teachers, I decided to leave college until whole campaign is over.”

Like Biren, Jigme Tshering Dorjee and Tshering Dorji, who were studying at RTC have decided to give Bhutan’s dream for World Cup more importance to study.

Tshering Dorji said that the decision was taken in consultation with his family and teachers. “Since the national team had to play eight games in this round, time management was becoming very difficult,” said the 20-year-old midfielder. “Till March next year we’ll be fully engaged in preparing for the matches.”

Lungtok Dawa is a first year student at RTC. The 17-year-old said that most of the time he is too exhausted with the training sessions and cannot concentrate in the classes. “It is difficult to cope with trainings and studies at the same time.”

Tshering Dendup, who is a member of the national team, is waiting to pursue his higher education. The 21-year-old goalie said that because football in the country has improved he plans to pursue his passion which is football.

Football has come a long way in Bhutan. National players are now provided with a monthly salary of Nu 10,000 along with the latest gears required to play at international levels.

Bhutan Football Federation also provides scholarships to players to help them continue their education. The federation is also planning to build facilities like gymnasium and to provide better dietary services to help improve the team.

Younten Tshedup