Bhutan national football team

Bhutan national football team


The Bhutan national football team represents
Bhutan in international men’s football. The team is controlled by the governing body for
football in Bhutan, the Bhutan Football Federation, which is a member of the Asian Football Federation
and the regional body the South Asian Football Federation. Bhutan play their home games at
the national stadium, Changlimithang. It is one of the younger national teams in the world
having played its first match in 1982. The team are currently one of the weakest
in the world and are, as of August 14, 2014 ranked 46th and last in the AFC with zero
points and 208th and joint last globally in the FIFA World Rankings with San Marino on
zero points. Their highest ranking achieved was 187th, which they last reached in December
2008 following their semi-final performance in the 2008 SAFF Championship. From that high
point, they slipped down the rankings to last place in December 2012 to join San Marino
and the Turks and Caicos Islands in 207th. They have remained rooted to the bottom ever
since, having lost all their competitive fixtures since then and fell to 208th place following
the admission to FIFA of South Sudan in July 2014.
The team are also ranked extremely low on the all time Elo ratings at 231st out of 234.
The only FIFA affiliated nation below them are American Samoa, with the other two spots
taken by the Northern Marianas Islands and Palau. Passang Tshering and Wangay Dorji are
the team’s top scorers, both with five goals. History
1980s Bhutan’s entry into the international arena
was comparatively late, playing their first match only in 1982, a 3-1 loss to Nepal in
the 1982 ANFA Cup, although sources also indicate that a team representing Bhutan travelled
to Nepal eight years earlier and won the Shripanch Mahendra Gold Cup, though it is not clear
the extent to which this was a true international tournament or whether they were competing
against club teams. They also played a representative team from China’s Kunming Army Unit in the
competition, also losing 3-1. Unfortunately, the scorers for Bhutan are not recorded, so
it is unknown who scored Bhutan’s first international goal. It is interesting to note that Bhutan’s
involvement in the ANFA Cup came some seven years before the inauguration of their own
league competition. Despite this, Bhutan continued to put out
a side in the South Asian Games. They entered the first games in 1984, but lost all three
of their games, 2-0 to Bangladesh, 5-0 to hosts, and eventual winners, Nepal and 1-0
to the Maldives to finish last out of the four competing teams. It is unclear whether
a play off for third place was held between Bhutan and the Maldives. If it was, then the
result is not known. Either way, the bronze medal was awarded to the Maldives.
Undeterred, Bhutan sent a team to the following year’s competition in Bangladesh. Results
unfortunately went the same way as the prior year’s tournament. Bhutan were drawn in group
B of the competition along with India and Nepal. They lost their first match narrowly,
1-0 to Nepal and were beaten 3-0 by eventual champions India to ensure that they finished
bottom of the group and did not progress. The national team did not play any fixtures
for the next two years as the South Asian Games moved to become a biennial competition,
though they again sent a team to the third edition of the games in Kolkata, India. Drawn
in group B again, this time with Nepal and Bangladesh, history repeated itself, as Bhutan
lost first to Bangladesh 3-0, with Badal Das, Kaiser Hamid and Ahmed Ali scoring for Bangladesh,
and then 6-2 to Nepal. Whilst their two goals ended a five-year, six-game scoring drought,
they were thoroughly outclassed as Ganesh Thapa scored five times for Nepal.
1990s Despite establishing the first recorded football
league in Bhutan in 1986, and while the BFF were admitted as members of the AFC in 1994,
the national team did not compete in any matches following their defeat to Nepal in the South
Asian Games until 1999, missing four editions of the South Asian Games, returning only in
1999. Their absence from the international arena
had not seen an improvement in the standard of football, even though there had been a
national championship established in the country for the previous four seasons. Their first
game against hosts Nepal ended in a resounding 7-0 thrashing. The team found themselves 3-0
down within the first twenty minutes as Hari Khadka scored in the first and fifth minutes,
with Naresh Joshi extending the lead after eighteen. Bhutan were able to keep Nepal at
bay for the rest of the half, but conceded two more either side of the hour mark courtesy
of Deepak Amatya and Rajan Rayamajhi before a brace from Basanta Thapa sealed an emphatic
victory for Nepal. They performed better defensively in their next match, but still lost 3-0 to
India, Vijayam Imivalappil scoring all three goals for India. Out of the competition, Bhutan
faced a dead-rubber against Pakistan, who were also eliminate prior to the fixture following
losses to India and Nepal. With nothing to play for, they produced their best performance
of the tournament. Dinesh Chhetri opened the scoring for Bhutan in the twenty-first minute,
the first time they had led a game in their history, only to see a potential victory disappear
following two second-half goals for Pakistan from Haroon Yousaf.
2000-2001 At the turn of the century, having spent the
best part of the last two decades competing only against teams within south Asia, Bhutan
made their first foray into international football at a continental level, competing
in the qualification rounds for the 2000 AFC Asian Cup. This tournament was to be one of
the lowest points in the history of the admittedly hastily assembled national team. An opening
3-0 loss to Nepal was perhaps not surprising, with Bhutan never having gained any form of
positive result against their himalayan neighbours, and at this point in time having scored only
once in the ANFA Cup back in 1982. However, the four days later they faced Kuwait and
were beaten 20-0. Seven of the ten Kuwaiti outfield players got their names on the scoresheet
that day, including Bashar Abdullah who scored eight and Jassem Al-Houwaidi who scored five.
Bhutan were seriously hampered in this game by their years in the footballing wilderness,
but did not help themselves in the match conceding four penalties in total for what were described
as “rugby-like challenges” and having two players sent off. This defeat was a world
record international defeat, though fortunately Bhutan’s blushes were spared fourteen months
later when they lost this most undesirable of records as Australia beat Tonga 22-0. Further
heavy defeats were to follow, an 8-0 loss to Turkmenistan was followed by an 11-2 defeat
to Yemen. Following on from this defeat, having been established in 1983, the Bhutan Football
Federation were admitted as the 204th member of FIFA.
2002: The Other Final The defeats in 2000 in AFC Cup qualifying
had left Bhutan ranked as the world’s second worst national team with thirteen points in
the official FIFA rankings, below American Samoa, but above Montserrat. At the same time,
with the Netherlands having failed to qualify for the 2002 FIFA World Cup, two Dutch ad-agency
partners, Johan Kramer and Matthijs de Jongh, not having their home team to cheer on pondered
who the worst team in the world might be. With Bhutan and Montserrat so close to each
other at the bottom of the FIFA rankings, they set out to arrange a match between the
two nations. Montserrat, their only pitch having been destroyed by one of the island
nation’s seven active volcanoes, agreed to the match and travelled to Bhutan for the
game, held at Changlimithang a few hours before the actual World Cup Final, a match authorised
by FIFA. The game started strongly for Montserrat and Bhutan struggled to keep them at bay during
early exchanges. However, initial nerves were settled after five minutes when Wangay Dorji
headed a goal to give Bhutan the lead. This gave them the momentum to press on, but their
finishing was lax and they were unable to convert the chances they created. Montserrat
were able to keep Bhutan at bay for the rest of the half and the game remained at 1-0 until
well past the hour mark when referee Steve Bennett awarded Bhutan a freekick. Dorji stepped
up and scored his second of the game. The momentum remained with Bhutan and veteran
striker Dinesh Chhetri scored a third before Dorji took full advantage of a tiring Montserratian
team to complete his hat trick and seal a 4-0 victory, Bhutan’s first victory on the
international stage against any opposition, indeed, their first ever result of any kind,
and the first time they had ever kept a clean sheet.
2003-2005 However, despite this memorable victory, Bhutan
were unable to carry this form forward into competitive matches. Despite the cash the
Bhutan Football Federation now received as a member of FIFA, there was still very little
money in the game for players, even those who played for the national team. Players
who were unemployed outside of football had to exist on a stipend from the federation
of only Nu 3-5,500 per month and there were no internationally certified coaches in the
country at all, only amateurs and school teachers. It is no surprise then that Bhutan lost all
three games in 2003 South Asian Football Federation Gold Cup, losing 6-0 to the Maldives, 2-0
to Nepal and 3-0 to hosts Bangladesh, returning home bottom of their group without scoring
a single goal. They took advantage though in their next set of matches as they hosted
Group F of the preliminary qualifying round for the 2004 AFC Asian Cup. Drawn with Guam
and Mongolia, two teams ranked much closer to them than the majority of their previous
opposition, they began their campaign with an impressive 6-0 victory over Guam and followed
it up with a 0-0 draw against Mongolia to top their group and progress to the qulifying
round proper. The victory over Guam was their highest ever victory and the two games undefeated
in this group represents Bhutan’s best run of form to date as of 2014. In the next stage
though they were drawn against much stronger opposition in the shape of Saudi Arabia, Indonesia
and Yemen Faced with this increase in quality, Bhutan were outclassed in all six of their
qualifying games, losing all of them and failing to score a single goal again in the process.
Their losing run continued into the 2005 South Asian Football Federation Gold Cup, where
again they were to return home winless, losing 3-0 to Bangladesh and India respectively and
3-1 to Nepal, with Bikash Pradhan scoring their only goal of the tournament, a consolation
goal with Nepal already 3-0 up in what was a dead rubber for both sides.
2006-2010 The next three years would prove to be somewhat
of an improvement for Bhutan. Entering the inaugural AFC Challenge Cup, they suffered
narrow defeats to Nepal, 2-0 and Sri Lanka 1-0, before holding Brunei to a 0-0 draw.
Although they failed to score and did not progress to the main competition, the draw
against Brunei was their first positive result of any kind for nearly three years following
a similar 0-0 draw with Mongolia and ended an eleven match losing streak. They did not
play any international matches for the next two years, appearing again on the continental
stage in the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup. Their performance was similar to the previous Challenge
Cup, opening with a 3-1 loss to Tajikistan, Passang Tshering getting Bhutan back in the
game after sixty nine minutes, only for the Tajiks to seal the victory from the penalty
spot in the dying minutes through Numonjon Hakimov. Bhutan bounced back in the next game,
drawing 1-1 with Brunei, Nawang Dendhup giving Bhutan the advantage, a lead which they held
until the seventy sixth minute when Khayrun Bin Salleh equalised. A 3-0 loss to the Philippines
in their final group game confirmed that, again, Bhutan would not be progressing to
the competition proper However, the two goals they scored and the draw achieved, meant that
they finished in third place in the group above Brunei.
Bhutan built on the positive results they had gained from the previous two tournaments
when they took part in the 2008 SAFF Championship. A late Nima Sangay goal was sufficient to
give Bhutan a share of the points in their opening game against Bangladesh. They slipped
up against the hosts Sri Lanka in their next game, losing 2-0, but bounced back in their
final game to record a 3-1 victory over Afghanistan, Yeshey Gyeltshen scoring twice and his namesake
Yeshey Dorji getting the third before H.A. Habib scored a consolation for the Afghans.
Sri Lanka beat Bangladesh in the other final group game to ensure that Bhutan finished
as runners-up in the group and qualified for the knock-out rounds of a tournament for the
first time in their history. They met India in the semi-finals and took the lead through
Kinley Dorji after eighteen minutes. It was a lead they would hold for less than fifteen
minutes though as Sunil Chhetri equalised before halftime. Bhutan hung on and took the
game to extra time only to see the possibility of victory snatched from them at the very
last moment as Gouramangi Singh scored in added time at the end of extra time to claim
the narrowest of victories for India. Nonetheless, the semi-final appearance is Bhutan’s best
performance in any tournament to date. Unfortunately, they have not been able to
build on what they achieved in 2008. Their loss to India has been the start of the longest
losing streak in their history, currently standing as of July 2014 at nineteen games.
The 2010 AFC Challenge Cup qualifying competition began with a narrow 1-0 loss to the Philippines,
but quickly turned into a rout as Bhutan lost 7-0 to Turkmenistan and 5-0 to the Maldives
to return home again without a point or scoring. A Passang Tshering goal was of little consolation
as a 2-1 friendly loss to Nepal failed to end the streak, before a disastrous 2009 SAFF
Championship saw them lose 4-1 to Bangladesh, 6-0 to Sri Lanka and 7-0 to Pakistan, a Nawang
Dendhup penalty against Bangladesh being their only reward in all three games.
2011 to present day Bhutan withdrew from the international stage
for the next two years, re-emerging to play two back to back friendly matches against
Nepal in preparation for the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup. Both of these games resulted in narrow
losses, 1-0 and 2-1. Their 2012 AFC Challenge Cup qualification was essentially over before
it started. Rather than being drawn in a group for initial qualification, the process was
changed so that the lowest-ranked eight teams entering played off over two legs on a home-and-away
basis. Bhutan perhaps suffered from the fact that neither leg was played in Bhutan, with
both matches taking place at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium, Gurgaon, India, but nonetheless,
a hat-trick from Siqiq Walizada in the first leg to give Afghanistan a 3-0 lead, made the
second leg, which Afghanistan won 2-0, essentially irrelevant. A disappointing year was compounded
with three successive losses in the 2011 SAFF Championship, Bhutan losing 3-0 to Sri Lanka,
5-0 to India and finally 8-1 to Afghanistan, Chencho Gyeltshen’s consolation being the
only positive from the year’s competition. Bhutan played only one match in 2012, a 5-0
loss to Thailand, before their most recent attempt in the 2013 SAFF Championship. This
tournament, produced an almost identical result to the last SAFF championship, Bhutan opened
the competition losing 3-0 to Afghanistan, then 8-2 to the Maldives despite being 2-1
up at one point and level going into halftime, before rounding off another miserable year
with a 5-2 loss to Sri Lanka. One of the main reasons suggested for Bhutan’s significant
drop in form is the amount of money available to players, even those who play for the national
team. Yeshey Dorji, one of the country’s leading players, announced his retirement following
the 2013 SAFF Championships, citing an inability to live off football as the main reason. The
Bhutan Football Federaition recently withdrew the Nu 4,000 monthly payment to players in
the national team, and whilst money is spent at grass roots, more needs to be spent on
the national team as coach Kazunori Ohara notes that once players get to the end of
school age they often drop out of football completely.
Current squad The following squad was selected for the 2013
SAFF Championship matches: Caps and goals updated as of 11 September
2013 Note: Clubs, caps and dates of birth taken
from player pages at National Football Teams. See individual player articles for references.
Recent results and upcoming fixtures Competitive record
International opponents As at 23 July 2014:
Coaches References External links
Official supporters’ club website

About the Author: Garret Beatty

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