After the historic win in the Maldives, the President of Basketball Federation of Bhutan, Jigme Namgyal, talks to Kuensel’s Thinley Namgay about the challenges and opportunities for the basketball national team. Excerpts.

Bhutan won the recent five-nation championship in the Maldives. What did we learn from it? 

All of us have observed that our players developed themselves a lot. We have to give credit to the players. But we learnt how to maximise individual skills and how to play against taller players which we are not ready for. Our coach Kim has been working in the federation for the last 10 years. During these years, we all worked together and the recent championship was an outcome of a collaborative effort.

How likely is the current squad to remain for the next few years?  

As per our constitution, we can’t continue like that. We have to do selection again and this is essential. Players who participated in the Five Nation Championship know that there is a selection again. Some players are going to other countries and selection is obvious. We don’t have a proper stadium and housing facility to invite everyone for the selection. But for those residing in Thimphu, it is open.

The current national basketball players are mostly office-goers. How do you conduct timely training? 

To be frank, there are lots of challenges. However, players didn’t complain so far. It is through their sheer passion and they don’t care about stipend or TA/DA while representing the country. The current stipend of Nu 7,500 is not sufficient. It applies the same to coaches as well.

The players are paid a monthly stipend of Nu 7,500 during training. Will this change? 

So far, all funds are from the Bhutan Olympic Committee (BOC). The BOC has been very supportive. BOC will support us again and we are in the process of discussion. Everything has to be dealt with in proper steps. Right now, nothing concrete is there.

Will we have a professional or regular national basketball team? 

The national team is not the stepping stone for professional basketball. Training for a year is not enough, as they have to be active all the time. We have many professional tournaments such as BoB A-League, and B-League which keep players active. The federation is trying to enter the South Asian Club Championship. If our players play well in this championship, they will get an opportunity to feature in international clubs. We want to create a hub of point-and-shooting guards who can go outside and play. Bhutanese are capable of that.

Some important facilities are missing today. What’s happening on that front?

The swimming pool sports complex was never made for tournaments. It was for recreational activity. We will demolish the current structure and build a proper one. As a federation, we are also looking for land in Thimphu for another facility. We are discussing with BOC to establish a Basketball Academy. Through Basketball Academy, we could provide equal opportunity for every basketball enthusiast across the country. I believe that talented basketball players could also be in other parts of the country.

How does the federation ensure that enthusiastic players from other dzongkhags also can take part in tryouts to be drafted into the national team?  

Due to the lack of an academy, we had to resort to tryouts. To do a national selection, players have to come to Thimphu which is challenging, especially students. The future Academy could solve this issue.

It is essential to conduct talent identification camps across the country so that the ‘best of the best’ will be selected – junior or senior national team players. How has the federation ventured into this field so far?

Our international body is the  International Basketball Federation (FIBA). But we get zero funding from FIBA. That is why it is challenging for us to conduct various programmes. 

How is the federation coping in terms of funding?

The federation has been receiving support from our well-wishers such as BoB, Goenzang, Jigme Mart, Bhutan distributors, Rigsar Construction Private Limited, and Bhutan Insurance Limited. We are very grateful.