Thinley Namgay 

Thimphu-based Sunrise Women Football Club won the Kelme Bhutan Women’s National League 2021 without losing a single game out of all the matches it played the entire season.

The team owed a big part of their success to their young coach, Rinchen Dema, from Silambi, Mongar.

The 23-year-old was awarded the Kelme Bhutan Women’s National League Best Coach Award in Punakha during the tournament’s final game, during which Sunrise FC beat Ugyen Academy FC.

Being a male-dominated game, there were only a handful of women coaches until just recently. The trend is changing now. Today, we could see a few women coaches even coaching the men’s national league.

Rinchen Dema with the Sunrise Women FC players

It was Rinchen Dema’s first award as a coach, and it came within a few months after she took over the reins of the Sunrise FC.

Among her peers, Rinchen Dema is known for her coaching skills, hard work, and friendly disposition.

Rinchen Dema played in the senior women’s national team for two years, beginning in 2016. She also played in the under-14 national squad for three years.

After completing Class XII at Jampel Higher Secondary School in Haa last year, instead of looking for a job right away, she opted to train as a football coach and attended training courses with the Bhutan Football Federation to obtain a coaching license. Rinchen Dema completed the course successfully and pursued her dream to become a professional women’s coach.

Rinchen Dema said that winning this year’s Best Coach Award has further encouraged her. “I am happy that I got this award within a short period of being involved in my profession. My passion and dreams for football have made me who I am today.”

Her family members are huge football enthusiasts and are supportive of her decision.

Richen Dema started playing football when she was nine. “I have been a passionate football player since my school days.”

“Furthermore, the same passion that the children possess has allowed me to help, build and develop them and their skills. I am also able to learn from the values and principles of individual players,” Rinchen Dema said.

She said that she wouldn’t have excelled in her career without the support and guidance of head coach Ngawang Dhendup of Thimphu City FC.

According to Rinchen Dema, her decision to be a coach comes from a desire to groom young players.

“I am passionate about being a player, but I realised that my strength would not remain the same as I grow older. I thought that even if I can’t play myself, I can teach the young ones to fulfil their dreams,” she said.

“I like to engage with the players, and it also helps me remain physically fit.”

Challenges are plenty, especially for a young coach like her.  She said that she had to train the senior players and some players were more talented. “To guide and coordinate them, in the beginning, was tough for me.”

Acknowledging the development of women’s football regarding technique and exposure, she said more opportunities should be given to the girls.

This year’s league was an exciting moment in her career and a chance to prove her worth.

Six teams from Thimphu, Paro, and Punakha, all led by women coaches, competed for the first time in a home and away format.

She said playing both home and away was encouraging, and it could have been better if there were more teams in the league from other dzongkhags.

Currently, she conducts training for the youth and will soon conduct a selection camp to recruit new players for the club.

“Parents and teachers should encourage girls who are interested in football.”

”Talent alone won’t work. Until the age of 19, most support women’s football.  But after 19, some say that women can’t play football because of age. This is a misconception and it discourages our girls,” she said.

“As a coach, I always advise my players to follow their dreams.”