འབྲུག་ཡུལ་ / Druk Yul / Bhutan
- Capital: Thimphu
- Official Languages: Dzongkha
- Nicknames: Dragon Boys, Dragon Girls
- Association: Bhutan Football Federation (BFF) / འབྲུག་ཡུལ་རྐང་རིལཁོངས་གཏོགས
- FIFA Code: BHU
- Best World Cup Result (Men): Not Qualified
- Best World Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Best Asian Cup Result (Men): Not Qualified
- Best Asian Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Best AFC Solidarity Cup Result (Men): Qualified (2020)
- Best SAFF Championship Result (Men): Semi-Finals (2008)
- Best SAFF Championship Result (Women): Group Stage (Various)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 159th (June 2015)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 113th (March 2017)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 209th (November 2014 – March 2015)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 155th (September 2019)
- Most Capped Player: Chencho Gyeltshen – 36 caps [as of Jan 2021]
- Top Scorer: Chencho Gyeltshen – 10 goals [as of Jan 2021]
The Mountain Kingdom of Bhutan has a relatively short history within international football having only becoming members of the AFC in 1993, and full members of FIFA in 2000. Within football, the side has been regarded as the ‘smallest of the minnows’ as they occupied the lowest rungs (and even bottom place) of the FIFA World Rankings for a large period of their history. So much so, that they famously played in “The Other Final” in June 2002 (on the same day as the 2002 World Cup Final) – a match between themselves and Montserrat, the two lowest ranked sides in the FIFA rankings to decide who were the worst team in the world. In that famous match, Bhutan comprehensively won their first ever, officially-sanctioned international match 4-0.
It wouldn’t be until the 2018 World Cup when Bhutan finally entered the World Cup qualifiers, and they stunned the Asian football scene by beating Sri Lanka both home and away to progress to the Second Round of qualification. An incredible achievement in just their first ever World Cup qualifying campaign. It looked as if they would repeat the feat against Guam in the 2022 World Cup qualifying after winning their first leg by a single goal victory, but a 0-5 loss in the second leg ended their dreams of repeating the feat. Nonetheless, Bhutan are certainly not “the worst football team in the world” anymore and have risen dramatically up the FIFA rankings in recent years.
To talk about the Himalayan kingdom’s team in international football, we interviewed a semi-professional footballer from Paro FC [the 2020 Bhutan Premier League third-placed side] midfielder, and a former player of the Bhutanese national team, Galey Zangpo.
Q. Who would you say is your country’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?
I won’t be able to point out a player as the best player in my country because it is not for me to decide that. However, I know a few players in the country who I think are one of the best in their position, like Chencho Gyeltshen as a forward, Tshering Dorji as a midfielder, and a few more in their specific position. However, to name a player as the best in Bhutan for me at the moment is hard and I think we are still yet to see a player whom we can say stands out from the rest of the players.
Likewise, even for ‘the best manager of all time’, I do not have one name in my head which stands out from the rest because Bhutan just started a semi-professional league with very few professional players and naming a manager as the best of all time will be too early for me.
Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?
Personally, I would say our goalkeepers from the past and present national team must be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ since they are the most underrated players for conceding goals during our international matches.
Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player in the Bhutanese national side currently?
For me, Tshering Dorji is the player I love to play alongside and watch. He was the MVP and Top Scorer of the top division league in Bhutan [the Bhutan Premier League] last year.
Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?
Our national team state has improved a lot compared to the past. They are playing more regular competitive football league and international matches throughout the year and also earning better results than before. Therefore, I am sure the performance will also keep improving.
Q. Are there any Bhutanese players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?
Yes, I have seen a few exciting and potential talents in the country. Personally, I would say the most potential talent would be Jetsun Dorji, a young player in Bhutan National Football Academy. I think the kid will do well in the future since he is gifted technically and works hard in training too.
Q. Looking at Bhutan’s short international history, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance for the national team in your opinion?
Without a doubt the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Sri Lanka in March 2015 [Bhutan won 3-1 on aggregate, and playing their first ever World Cup qualifying matches in their history].
Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?
I don’t if this could be referred to as the lowest point but I felt bad when we lost 5-0 against Guam in the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers First Round second leg in June 2019 after winning the first leg 1-0 at home.
Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the Bhutanese national team?
The best thing about being a fan of the national team is the amazing atmosphere that we get to experience during our home games, and the worst is losing matches with huge margins.
Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?
Yes, there are unofficial anthem, songs, and chats before/during/after matches that electrify the stadium on match days.
Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?
Yes, I do. I wore it once 😉
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Bhutanese national team?
I hope our national team improves every year in terms of every aspect of the game on and off the field and most importantly to win more games in the future.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts about the national team and football in Bhutan. I would like to remind the readers that, this is purely a personal opinion and will differ from an individual person’s opinion.
A massive kadrin chey la to Galey for answering our questions on the Dragon Boys, and wish him all the very best for the 2021 Bhutan football season ahead with Paro FC, and hope he gets further caps for the national team.
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