Thinley Namgay

The year of the Pig saw moments of pride, celebrations, victories and despair in the field of sports.

Bhutanese athletes won 20 medals at the 13th South Asian Games SAG) in Nepal reviving the hope of youth who aspires to pursue sports as a career. The medals tally surpassed the 12th SAG in 2016 where Bhutan won only 16 medals.

Football saw lots of achievements with maximum international participation in the Pig year.

For the first time, the under-23 men’s national team reached the final in the 13th SAG. The team settled for silver, but evidently won the hearts of all the Bhutanese. The under -15 men’s junior national team was declared the runners up of the UEFA ASSIT U-15 international tournament at Maldives in July after losing to Latvia 0-6 in the final.

FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifier preliminary round was astonishing.  Senior men’s national team defeated the Guam 1-0, but lost the away match 5-0.

Women’s football saw drastic changes. Sri Lanka struggled to beat Bhutan 1-0 in the women’s international friendly match at Changlimithang. Moreover, Bhutanese were glad that BFF hosted the FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifier match between Nepal, and Kuwait at Changlimithang in November.

Future of football looks promising. President of BFF, Ugyen Tshechup Dorji, became the first Bhutanese to serve as the executive member of AFC during the 29th AFC congress held in Malaysia.

Paro FC’s story

Paro FC displayed sizzling performances in the Pig year even if they lost 9-1 to Bengaluru FC.

AFC presented Paro FC the Best Grassroots Club Award 2019 for “outstanding work by a club in grassroots football development” at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on November 19. The club lifted their maiden BOB Bhutan Premier league. As a winner of the Bhutan Premier league, the club got automatic spot to represent the country in the AFC Cup 2020 qualifiers.

Beating Defenders FC of Sri Lanka, Paro FC faced the Hero Indian Super League Champions- Bengaluru FC. Paro suffered a crushing defeat at the away match, but they won the hearts of people.  The club was also declared the winner of Jigme Dorji Wangchuck Memorial Gold Cup 2019, after beating Three Star FC of Nepal 1-0 at Phuentsholing in February.

Other sports federations

Other sports federations and associations also had a wonderful journey in the Pig year.

Karma, a female archer, became the first Bhutanese athlete to qualify for an Olympic quota. The 29-year-old archer booked a spot in the recurve women’s archery at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics during the Asian continental qualification tournament held in Bangkok in November.

Cyclist Pelden Wangchuk, 20, became the youngest cycling race winner after winning the 10th Tour of the Dragon covering a distance of 268km from Bumthang to Thimphu. He completed the race in 10 hours, 45 minutes and 53 seconds.

In body building, Tashi Tshokey, brought home a bronze in the men’s sports physique at the South Asian Championship. Tandin Wangchen, 42, won silver in the men’s athletic physique above 183cm category at the 11th World Bodybuilding and Physique Sports Championships held in South Korea.

Boxer Tashi Wangdi, lost to Deepak Bohoria of India in the semi-finals of the Asian Confederation Boxing Championship, men’s light flyweight category, held at Thailand. Tashi Wangdi reached the semifinals after defeating Kazakhstan’s Askhat Zhussupov in the men’s light flyweight (49kg) category.

National taekwondo team brought home 12 medals from the ninth Tirak Taekwondo International Championship. The team of 12 national players (six boys and six girls) won three gold, four silver and five bronze medals. Ngawang Yonten, 22, from Trashigang, Kangpara was declared the best fighter of the championship in the overall senior men’s category.

Bhutan Junior badminton team also cherished their success. They grabbed their first medal, bronze, in men’s doubles and women’s doubles category in South Asia under -21 regional badminton championships 2019 in Addu City, Maldives.

Tennis looks encouraging. The Asian Tennis Federation and International Tennis Federation recognised Bhutan Tennis Federation for the development of sports and other activities in the country.

It was a also a great moment for the four athletes of Draktsho Vocational Training Centre, who returned home with gold, silver and bronze medals from the Special Olympic World Games 2019 held in Abu Dhabi.

Royal Bhutan police made the most of archery final. They nabbed a wanted suspect when the finals of archery tournament was broadcast live. The suspect was playing for team Buddhist Arts.

To promote sports in the country, Finance Minister Namgay Tshering, said that the government would come up with major tax reforms in the corporate sectors.

Athletes who participated in the 13th SAG received a stipend of Nu 7,500 a month from BOC for five months during their pre-match training period for the nutritional purpose.

The 48 medalists of the 13th South Asian Games that was held at Nepal in December were awarded a Sports Excellence Award by the BOC with the financial support from government. A total of Nu 5.155 million was awarded to medalists of the SAG games.