Professionalising football in Bhutan
|Ugen Tsechup (2nd from L) and Joseph S Blatter (centre)|
BFF president has big plans for the future of the sport in Bhutan
6 May, 2009 – “Football is not just a game,” says Bhutan football federation (BFF) president, Ugen Tsechup Dorji, who sees soccer becoming a major source of income for Bhutanese youth. “It’s not a waste of time,” the president said, “if you have the talent, we’ll assist you.”
The president was referring to BFF plans to send promising local players to clubs in the region, from where they’ll have better chances of moving to higher levels. For starters, BFF has already requested the Bangladeshi and Nepalese football governing bodies to accept Bhutanese players under an “apprentice programme”.
The president, who is a Manchester United and Cristiano Ronaldo fan, is optimistic about Bhutan football. Like the players he encourages to seek better opportunities abroad, he also sees Bhutan one day on the same pitch with the best teams in Asia. “Who knows what level you can take your game to,” he said.
In April he met FIFA president, Joseph S Blatter and secretary general, Jerome Valcke, two of the highest decision making authorities of the organisation. “Bhutan, being such a small country, it was absolutely necessary to show a face,” said the BFF president. And showing a face indeed netted results. Blatter plans to visit Bhutan in 2010. FIFA has also “verbally” committed itself to increasing assistance in developing grass roots level football. Bhutan needs a strong base, said the president, who thought grassroots development had been compromised because the national team receives priority.
FIFA has already been assisting Bhutan with its Goal projects. The second project is at its first implementation phase, said BFF technical head, Mindu Dorji. Two training fields and a dormitory for players in Gelephug are being built. Once completed, a third project will finance a Thimphu football stadium.
The president said BFF had requested the government to allow corporations and private enterprises to invest in football – tax-free. He said football, throughout the region, was growing in popularity and with that popularity came money, through endorsements, promotions and advertisements. He said he hoped to establish such a system in the next year: “More clubs, more club championships, youth and community clubs, and proper representation of all dzongkhags.”
“With rapid urban migration, the youth may turn to anti-social activities,” said Ugen Tsechup Dorji, who played centre-back during his school and college years. “I feel football is one sport that will help youth to not smoke, drink or do drugs.” He says he still plays football, although he now likes the centre-forward position, “because now I get to go up and score.”