Football: The increasing number of football clubs registering with the Bhutan Football Federation (BFF) comes as a positive sign of the development of football in the country.

This year, the Thimphu A-League which begins next month will see a total of nine clubs competing for the title.

As the winners and runners up of Thimphu B-League last season, Transport United and High Quality United, along with BFF’s Under-19 team will join the A-league this season.

Starting this year, the federation’s academy in Changjiji will house three batches of youth national teams: the Under-16, Under-17 and Under-19 teams at the academy.

BFF competition officer, Kinley Dorji said that with the upcoming under-19 international tournaments in October, the A-League will provide the team with much-needed exposure.

But on the flip side, the increasing number of teams has left many clubs worried about whether they will get enough practise time before the league begins.

With only two artificial turfs available in Thimphu, nine teams will have to share the ground for practise. Two clubs share a ground for two hours of practise everyday, except for Mondays and Fridays when the Changlimithang and Changjiji stadiums are closed for maintenance. Each team also receives the ground twice a week to practise.

However, some of the clubs shared that the training sessions allocated to them are not enough with only a month remaining before the league begins.

“We just have two artificial grounds available to us. We are making sure that all the participating clubs receive maximum training time on the grounds,” said Kinley Dorji, adding that there is not much the federation can do to address all the demands of the clubs.

He said that if individual clubs could negotiate with schools to use their grounds for training purposes, the pressure on the demand for the artificial turfs could be reduced.

“There are many good school grounds available in Thimphu that could be used as practise grounds for clubs. The clubs have to take the initiative if they need proper training before the league.”

Meanwhile, in accordance to the AFC regulation, the federation beginning last year has introduced the BFF Club Licensing Regulation procedure to establish a reliable and credible league with a minimum standard for the participating clubs.

In the sporting criteria under the regulation, participating clubs are required to have a head coach, a youth team, a doctor or a physiotherapist, a written contract between the club and the players, and youth development programmes.

Under the infrastructure criteria, clubs are required to have a home playing field, training facilities and a club secretariat. Clubs are also required to have a general manager, finance, security and media officials to qualify to play in the league organised by the federation.

So far the federation has received documents from only five clubs. BFF is still awaiting credentials from four clubs. If the clubs fail to submit the documents, Kinley Dorji said that the clubs will not be able to play in the league.

Each club will play a total of 16 games in the double-round league that begins from February 4. The league will conclude on July 8.

Younten Tshedup