Thinley Namgay  

Six teams from Thimphu, Paro, and Punakha are playing Kelme Bhutan Women’s Football League on a home and away basis for the first time.

The league that will end towards the end of this month is not just a mere competition among the teams, but a means for the Bhutan Football Federation (BFF) to select a few players for the 2021 South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Under (U)-19 Women’s Championship next month in Bangladesh.

Besides the ongoing competition, some BFF selected players are already training at the Gelephu Women’s Academy.

BFF officials said players from Gelephu and those who get selected from the ongoing league will soon practice together in Thimphu for the SAFF championship.

A 26-year-old assistant coach in Gelephu, Karma Choden, said young women have been practising for almost two weeks now. “But the ongoing training coincided with their annual examinations.”

Of the 23 players for the SAFF competition, 15 are from the Gelephu Academy.

Karma Choden said the performance of the U-19 team is good so far. “We are hoping to win this time.”

U-19 skipper, Sonam Tshomo, said that players have engaged in intensive training after getting information about the SAFF championship. “On normal days, we usually practice in the evening. We are trying our best.”

Currently, there are four U-19 coaches in Gelephu.

The BFF’s media and marketing officer, Phuntsho Wangdi, said the team will head to Bangladesh on December 7 or 8.

He said the BFF has forwarded the approval letter to the government through the Bhutan Olympic Committee.

Meanwhile, the second edition SAFF U-19 Women’s Championship is an international football competition organised by the SAFF.

The tournament will be held from December 11 to 22 at BSSS Mostafa Kamal Stadium in Dhaka.

Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka will participate in the championship. For Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh, it will be their second appearance in the tournament.

FIFA suspended the Pakistan Football Federation in April of this year. The Maldives withdrew from the tournament before the fixture was finalised.

Bhutan hosted the 2018 championship in Thimphu. Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, the Maldives, and Pakistan participated at that time.  Bangladesh were the defending champions and Bhutan stood fourth.

The Bhutanese women team set a record in the 2018 championship when they thrashed the Maldives 13-0 at Changlimithang Stadium and became the first team from Pool A to qualify for the semi-final.

Bhutan will play against Sri Lanka on December 11.

Edited by Tashi Dema