… tough challenge for new faces

 Nima | Gelephu

Every year in Gelephu, hundreds of young and aspiring footballers from across the country come together for a national football selection camp.

The camp is an annual event where previously selected players, who were trained at the Bhutan Football Federation (BFF) academy, give their best to get selected for the national team.

The federation could not conduct the selection camp in 2020 because of the pandemic.

Out of more than 300 young players who came from dzongkhag level selection camp, only 23 under-18 aged players will be selected for the 2022 SAFF Championship and AFC Playoffs.

Ninety percent of the slots for the U-18 national team will be taken by the players who were selected from the previous camp and have been training for years at the BFF Academy in Thimphu, according to officials from the selection committee.

Dorji Nima, 17, from Bumthang, is attending the camp for the fifth time. He is more confident this time about getting selected for the national team.

“There is a slight chance this time. It is very tough to get selected because the best talents from 20 dzongkhags come here. I have gained confidence and learned a lot after attending the camp for a long time,” he said.

Players who trained at the academy were better prepared, he said. “Their fitness levels are better. I will improve a lot if I get the opportunity to train at the academy.”

The one-week selection camp tests players with drills and training.

A total of 60 players for U-18 team, u-16, and U-14 will be selected from the camp. However, the final phase of the selection camp will be conducted in Thimphu.

The selection becomes tougher in the final phase, with young players from clubs in Thimphu and Paro joining the camp, according to the selection official.

“The exceptionally good and new players are selected. The camp is part of the preparation for the SAFF and AFC Playoffs in 2022. The final phase of the selection will be done two months before the championships,” said Dorji Khandu, Head of the Elite Youth Department.

He added that the details of the young players from the camp are recorded and the opportunities to play in the local clubs explored.

“There were players who played for local clubs in the camp this year,” said Dorji Khandu.

Chencho Gyeltshen from Chhukha participated in the selection camp for the first year.

“This is my first attempt to become a national player. If I do not get selected this time, I will return next year. I learned a lot from the camp,” he said.

The selection committee consisted of a coach from Japan, five national coaches, and the head of the Elite Youth Department.

One hundred and thirty young girls from across the country took part in the girl’s selection camp last week in Gelephu.