Basketball: The national basketball team left today for the fourth South Asian basketball association (SABA) championships in Bangalore, but not in their best mood.

The players were asked to manage with their own money for now, as the Bhutan Basketball Federation (BBF) couldn’t deliver the DSAs for the 12 players as they leave for the tournament today. The players are unhappy for not getting the 80 percent advance daily subsistence allowance (DSA).

Although officials from the federation deny the existence of such issues within the team, players told Kuensel that there is a lack of initiative from the federation.

BBF’s general secretary, Kinga Gyeltshen, said that he did not know of any such issues concerning the team. “If they did not get the money, they might have got it by now,” he said in the evening yesterday. Head coach of the team, Tenxin Jamtsho, also denying the accusation, said that the team is happy and ready for the tournament.

However, the captain of the national team, Chimmi Wangchuck said that federation agreed to give the DSAs (80 percent of the Nu 2,500 for five days) the day before the team left for the tournament, but at around 5 pm yesterday, the team still did not get the money they were promised.  “Now they are saying that we need to arrange our own money and they will only refund once the team gets back,” he said.

The decision has left all the players disappointed. One of the players is a recent class 12 graduate, who wanted to continue studies this year but could not as he was practicing with the team for the tournament. “I come from a very humble background and it’s difficult for me to even manage my pocket money for the day, where am I suppose to get the money for the tournament?” he said.

Chimmi Wangchuck, who is a tour-guide by profession, said that only five out of the 12 players on the team have regular jobs. “We can manage somehow, but for the two students and those who don’t have a stable job it is a problem,” he said. 

The SABA championships were supposed to take place last month but for some unavoidable circumstances were delayed and also changed several venues. Chimmi Wangchuck said that the federation should have worked out all the required arrangements before hand. “They had the time to make all the arrangements,” he said. “We’ve sacrificed a lot while training, and we don’t even get paid for being the national players like in other sports. I personally sacrificed a lot of my tours where I could have made some good money for my living.”

Chimmi said that the federation’s priority should be the national team and ensure that they are a strong team to represent the country proudly.

Another player said that it was a waste of time practicing so hard for the last few months. “It is an embarrassment,” he said. “We even collected Nu 1,000 from each player to take one of our assistant coach with us, which should have been taken care by the federation.” “It is not about the money but if such lack of concern from the authorities continues, the future doesn’t look bright for basketball in the country,” he said.

He said that the federation had no budget to even buy the team tracksuits and other necessary gears. The players were given tracksuits that were donated by the former Korean coach, Kiyong Kim.

Chimmi Wangchuck said that those tracksuits were of the same size and were too big for some players. “We had to go to the tailor and resize the tracksuits,” he said. 

The national basketball team this year is considered to be the “best-prepared team that the federation and the country had at the moment” according to Michael Andrew Behnke, another assistant coach.

The team who had been vigorously preparing for the tournament for the last four months was eying for their first international win.

Younten Tshedup