Thinley Namgay   

For the first time, the national women’s football team will take part in the upcoming AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifiers.

The Bhutanese women’s team has not participated in the AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifiers since its inception in 2004.

Bhutan is placed against Uzbekistan, Timor-Leste, and Jordan in group A.

Twenty-six Asian teams will play in the first round of the qualifiers between April 3 and 11 in a single round-robin format in a centralised venue.

The countries are divided into five groups of four, and two groups of three teams.

The seven group winners will join Asia’s five highest-ranked teams—North Korea, Japan, Australia, China, and South Korea in Paris 2024 Olympic women’s football qualifiers in October.

In the final round, between November and December, the three group winners and one of the best runners-up teams will play for the two spots in Paris 2024 Olympics.

The other SAARC member countries—India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, will also take part.

The draw was held at AFC house in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on January 12.

Bhutanese women’s football team is ranked 177th on the FIFA ranking. Uzbekistan ranks 46th, Jordan 69th, and Timor-Leste 153rd.   Women footballers and officials said that taking part in the Women’s Olympic Qualifiers would create opportunities for women to play in international football clubs if the team performs well.  “The upcoming tournament would further promote our country.”

Officials said the performance in the 2022 SAFF Women’s Championship was commendable and expects good competition. Bhutan defeated Sri Lanka 5-0  then.

Officials said the current squad comprises young and promising players who have been undergoing consistent training.

The national women’s team’s last international match was against Saudi Arabia where Bhutan won 4-2.