It wasn’t as celebrated as the football wins over Sri Lanka but an equally significant sporting event took place recently. Bhutan got its first international win in basketball. The Bhutanese women’s team defeated Bangladesh at the SABA games held in Nepal.
Until now, an international win has eluded the men’s national teams despite participating in a few regional tournaments. This is understandable. We’ve only just begun participating internationally in recent years.
But our women’s team got their first win in their very first competition. Granted they’ve played a few friendlies but the SABA championship was their first regional tournament.
The win shows that when it comes to basketball, Bhutan has potential to perform at a higher level, especially the women’s team. It is important that we continue to nurture this potential and progress.
We’re headed in the right direction. A semi-professional league has been formed where statistics are maintained allowing players and teams to identify weaknesses and strengths. Players, coaches, and referees have been trained and continue to be. The basketball federation has begun holding camps for the youth.
Bhutanese are already known to be skilled basketball players individually. Taking them to the next level, where an emphasis on team work and strategy is placed, will require that current efforts are sustained.
The long term goal should be for talented players to be identified at the school level and groomed into their college years. This would create a pool of players from which to choose from for the national team in the future.
But for this to happen we need better basketball infrastructure in the schools. We also need better participation from the schools when it comes to tournaments. Only a few schools participated in the last school tournament organised by the basketball federation.
Better basketball infrastructure in which to hold tournaments is also needed, not just in Thimphu but in other towns as well, like Phuentsholing, for one.
However, maintaining the talent and skills of this pool beyond the college years may be a challenge. Playing basketball or any other sport for that matter, may not be a viable occupation currently but it could eventually become one. The semi-professional A league is a start.
However, if we have talented enough players, looking for a job should not be limited to only within Bhutan. Many professional leagues are forming in the region, the most recent being the UBA in India. Such leagues are always on the lookout for good players and could absorb talented and skilled Bhutanese basketball players.