Thinley Namgay 

Sporting activities in the country have come under scrutiny lately given the increasing local positive Covid-19 cases and risks of spreading the infection.

The second nationwide lockdown in December last year was linked to an archery tournament held in Dechencholing, Thimphu. Recently, a cook from a quarantine centre in Thimphu had breached the Covid-19 protocol and went out to play cricket on two different occasions.

Following the first nationwide lockdown in August 2020, the government allowed sporting activities in phases. Tournaments were allowed but without spectators and with desuups monitoring the events.

Various organisations governing sports say they have enhanced compliance and monitoring of safety protocols.

Bhutan Indigenous Games and Sports Association’s (BIGSA) president, Lyonpo Kinzang Dorji, said that with the deteriorating situation in neighbouring India, Nepal, and Bangladesh, the association was taking extra precaution.

He said that the association would deploy desuups in various private archery ranges to monitor the games.

Without anyone monitoring the matches at the private archery ranges, many said, the number of players exceeded 10, which is the threshold set by the national Covid-19 taskforce. 

BIGSA president said, “At the Changlimithang archery range, three BIGSA officials are deployed to manage the matches.”

Bhutan Olympic Committee’s (BOC) head of sports research and development division, Namgay Wangchuk, said that the committee was also equally concerned with the recent developments. “As per the recent notification from the national Covid-19 task force, BOC had requested all the federations to postpone their meetings. We also cancelled the badminton tournament and volleyball training.”

Phuensum Football Club coordinator, Sunil Rai, said that despite the pandemic, sports should continue. However, he said that strict rules must be in place.

Thimphu City FC’s president, Hishey Tshering, said that sports are essential to keep the mind away from the pandemic. “If we follow the necessary protocols, we can keep ourselves safe.”

His club recently returned from the Maldives after playing an AFC qualifying match against Club Eagles. The entire squad was placed under 21-day mandatory quarantine on arrival. All tested negative.

Following the completion of the district league recently, the Bhutan Football Federation (BFF) decided that the 10 teams would automatically play the BoB Bhutan Premier League (BPL) later this month.

Owing to the pandemic, BFF decided to do away with the BPL qualifiers. The federation’s head of media and marketing, Phuntsho Wangdi, said that strict Covid-19 protocols would be ensured as per FIFA’s mandate during the tournament. “If the BPL tournament gets cancelled, it has financial implications for the federation and clubs.”

Also, most of the officials including referees are paid for every game they manage.