Unlike in the past, playoff rounds will now be conducted between local clubs in Paro and Phuentsholing dzongkhags to qualify for the BoB National League in Thimphu.

Save for Thimphu, the lone clubs from Paro, Phuentsholing and Punakha, automatically qualified for the national league until last year.

With more than one club, the ongoing Pepsi Thimphu League functions as the qualifying tournament for the clubs in Thimphu into the national league.

In Paro, one of the newest clubs Paro FC will host Paro United FC (PUFC) in the first playoff rounds at the Wochu football ground today. The away game for Paro FC will be played at the Shaba school ground on June 15.

Formed by a group of football enthusiasts in the dzongkhag, Paro FC was officially formed in January this year. The club has signed three national players from Nepal on loan for the season.

The trio plays for the Tribhuvan Army Club, a top division club in Kathmandu.

Known for having scored the highest hat tricks for this country, 28-year-old Nawayug Shrestha will be the man placed against PUFC’s defence today. The striker has scored three hattricks for the national squad against Bhutan and Maldives. Nawayug Shrestha was also the winning goal scorer against regional giants India in one of the recent games.

Teaming with him would be another young player, George Prince Karki in the forward. Know as the ‘free-kick specialist’, the 23-year-old joined the national squad in September last year.

Along with the striker duo, Paro FC will have Jitendra Karki, a veteran player in the defence.

With another three players from Assam on trial, Paro FC has a 30-men squad ready for the playoffs.

“With the amount of talent and experience these international players have, we expect them to help improve our performance and in general help develop the standard of football in the country,” said Karma Jigme, the president of the club.

Karma Jigme said that the club was formed to contribute to the development of football in Bhutan. “With limited clubs in the country today, the level of competition is low,” he said. “We wanted to provide an opportunity to all football enthusiasts who have the skills and talent to take this game to a next level.”

The team will be led by Puspalal Sharma, a veteran footballer who was known for his quick reflexes and crucial saves as a goalkeeper in both the national squad and his club.

Meanwhile, the Phuentsholing playoff would be played between Phuentsholing City FC and Phuentsholing United FC on June 25 and 27. With only one club, Ugyen Academy from Punakha will be directly qualifying into the national league.

With top three clubs from the ongoing Pepsi Thimphu League qualifying, six teams will compete at the national league that will begin from September 15.

Younten Tshedup | Trashigang