Bhutanese soccer scales new heights

| Karma Yuden, Thimphu


For a small country, which embarked on the road to development very late as compared to other countries, Bhutan’s achievements in several fields are lauded at the regional and global levels. On November 29, 2017, the nation got yet another feather in its cap. At the AFC Annual Awards, Bhutan was awarded the AFC President Recognition Award for Grass roots Football.

Receiving the laurel at Bangkok in Thailand was the President of Bhutan’s Football Federation, Ugen Tsechup Dorji.

Nearby, the latest heartthrob of Bhutanese football, Chencho Gyeltshen, showcased Bhutanese talent as he netted one goal and assisted the second; making his club, Minerva Punjab Football Club (MPFC), win 2-1 in the Hero I- League 2017-18. Playing the first game of the championship on December 1, 2017 at the Guru Nanak Stadium in Ludhiana, Punjab, Chencho took home a sum of Nu 25,000 as he was the Hero of the Match.

Donning the 07 jersey, the “Import from Bhutan,” was the smallest in the field in terms of physique. But it did not deter him from netting the goal in the 24th minute and then making his Ivory Coast club mate, Lago Bei get the second in the dying moments of the first half. Chencho’s perfect pass to the unmarked Bei punished the opponents. Chencho got very close to make a duo at several points, especially in the 75th minute. If he had made the curl perfect, he would have gone home happier.

The danger that Chencho posed was very evident from the two to three defenders, who surrounded him every time the ball came in his direction. His speed made him very potent. Standing behind defenders more than 6 feet tall, Chencho stole the ball at several instances. The two commentators of the match were all praises for the 21-year old Bhutanese, whose name was uttered for more than a hundred times.

AFC’s recognition and Chencho’s spell means a lot for us. Exposure is very important in any field. The laurels at Bangkok means that Bhutan as an emerging football nation is now recognized. What Chencho did at Ludhiana was watched by thousands of football fans in the subcontinent and beyond. This has sent a very clear message – Bhutan has football magicians. It opens the doors for others like Chencho to walk beyond Bhutan and compete with stars from all parts of the world. Bhutan can export. And like MPFC, others can import.

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