Thinley Namgay   

BoB Bhutan Premier League 2021 champions  Paro FC  began their preparation for the upcoming Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Club against Club Valencia of the Maldives.

Paro FC will play a preliminary game against Valencia in April in the Maldives. The two-time Bhutan Premier League champions, Paro FC will make their second appearance in the AFC Cup following the club’s inception in 2018.

Valencia is the second position holder in the 2020-2021 season’s Dhivehi Premier League, the highest professional football league in the Maldives. Valencia debuted in the AFC Cup in 2002.

In preliminary round two, the winner will face Bangladeshi’s top professional club Abahani Ltd Dhaka. Abahani Ltd Dhaka is a well known club in the Bangladesh Premier League.

Paro FC started an intense practice session after an easing of lockdown recently.

At the AFC debut in 2020, Paro FC played Defenders FC of Sri Lanka and proceeded to the next round with an away goal advantage.   Both the teams had a 5-5 aggregate in two games, but Paro maintained a 3-3 draw in Sri Lanka. However, Indian Super League champions Bengaluru FC thrashed Paro in the second round  10-1 on aggregate.

Paro FC’s head coach, Pupalal Sharma, said the pandemic made the training challenging but the team is trying their best.

He said the club planned a six-week training to face Valencia and the practice is on track.

“A six-week cycle is the normal practice we can deploy for periodisation. We have plans to recruit international players, but it is difficult with the restrictions and travel formalities to bring in foreign players,” Puspalal Sharma said.

However, many question whether Paro has a good pool of players this time in the AFC comeback.

In their first AFC competition, Paro FC had critical players like Kerala Blasters player Chencho Gyeltshen and Muthoot Football Academy’s Jigme Tshering Dorjee.

Puspalal said their absence wouldn’t make a difference to the team, as other players are equally competent. “We are strategising accordingly to fill the gap.”

Paro didn’t buy any players from the local clubs to play against Valencia.

Puspalal said the President Cup held in Mongar a few months back benefited the team by identifying key areas required to prepare for the AFC Cup 2022. “The lessons learnt will help us be stronger in the AFC.”

He said he is watching the opponent’s game tactics closely. “We have completed their player profiling and also hold some latest match videos,” Puspalal said.

Paro FC will head for the Maldives next month to train before the actual game. The club is still working on approval formalities from the government.

Paro FC’s striker Yeshi Dorji said he and his teammates are confident. “For a team to succeed, the very first thing we need to do is trust and believe in each other.”

Yeshi Dorji said the Paro FC is going to the Maldives only to win.


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