Thinley Namgay  

The under-19 national women’s team is currently in Bangladesh for the 2021 South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Under (U)-19 Women’s Championship.

Bhutan began their first training in Bangladesh on December 9. The team, comprising 23 players and five officials, landed in Bangladesh on December 8.

Out of the 23 players, 15 were selected from the women’s football academy in Gelephu and eight were chosen from the Kelme Bhutan Women’s Football League that ended last month.

Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka will play all the games at BSSS Mostafa Kamal Stadium in Dhaka.

Bhutan will face Sri Lanka in its first match today, while Bangladesh takes on Nepal.

Head coach Tanka Maya Ghalley said girls could practise only a few days together as a team in Thimphu, which was challenging. However, she said that most of them have played together in the past and became comfortable.

After completing a week-long quarantine, girls from Gelephu reached Thimphu on December 4.

“Expectations are high this time. We have a good team. We have almost the same squad that represented Bhutan in the U-15 SAFF Championship in 2015,” Tanka Maya Ghalley said.

Pakistan and the Maldives couldn’t participate this year.

Captain Sonam Tshomo said that the girls in Gelephu practised rigorously for two weeks. “The team cooperation is good because we already know each other. We’ll give our best and expect a good result.”

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

The Bhutanese women’s team set a record in the 2018 championship when they thrashed the Maldives 13-0 at Changlimithang Stadium.

An official from the Bhutan Football Federation (BFF) said: “Half of the team was practising at Gelephu, and the rest had good practice during the women’s league.”

In the 2018 tournament, the girls trained for more than two months.

The SAFF U-19 Women’s Championship is an international football competition organised by the SAFF.

The tournament will end on December 22. For Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh, it will be their second appearance in the tournament.

This year’s tournament will be more than the game for Bhutan. For the first time, the five officials-Team Manager, Head Coach, Assistant Coach, Physiotherapist, and Media Officer who went with the players in Bangladesh were all women.