Thinley Namgay    

With less than a month to play in the regional and international tournaments, Bhutan under (U)-17 and U-20 men’s national football teams are currently preparing for their upcoming international games.

The U-17 team will participate in the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) U-17 Championship 2022 in Sri Lanka between September 5-14.  The U-20 boys will compete in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-20 Asian Cup Qualifiers to be held in Bahrain from September 10.

Japanese U-17 coach Hideharu Takahashi said the team has been preparing for more than a year and he is optimistic this time. “We had good training so far.”

Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives are taking part in the SAFF tournament. Bhutan will play against India and Nepal in the group.

Hideharu Takahashi, 54, said the U-17 team has a better group tactic which is significant to winning a game.

He said the aggressive defence and counter-attack techniques of the boys could make a difference. “I am also watching the games of other countries.”

After completing the tournament in Sri Lanka, the U-17 team will travel directly to Bangladesh for the AFC U-17 competition among 44 nations which will begin on October 1. Bhutan U-17 is placed with hosts Bangladesh, Singapore and Yemen.

U-20 coach Ngawang Jampel said that, unlike U-17 teams who stay at the football academy at Changjiji, the U-20 team players are from different clubs such as Thimphu City FC, Tensung FC and Ugyen Academy FC.

The U-20 squad practices in different venues such as Ugyen Academy, RTC, and BFF grounds.

Ngawang Jampel said that intense practice is ongoing for a few months and the team is confident. “They are already engaged by the clubs and possess good skills.”

He said friendly matches and training in Bahrain would further make the team strong.

According to Ngawang Jampel, the U-20 team is participating in the AFC tournament after almost eight years and all are excited.

The U-20 team will face Qatar, Bahrain, Nepal and Bangladesh in group B. “Some people used to say that our team is not competent but we never know in the game. I am sure that our boys will play well.”

The U-20 AFC tournament will witness 49 countries.

Both the teams are leaving on August 28.