Chencho Gyeltshen, Minerva Punjab football club’s forward, is displaying the potential of Bhutanese footballers.
The 21-year-old is the lone Bhutanese playing for one of the top division professional leagues in India. Chencho Gyeltshen joined his new club Minerva Punjab FC on October 18 and made his debut against the Rail Coach Factory (RCF) at the Punjab state league the same month.
He played his first I-League match against Mohun Bagan on November 25, a club that he faced as a Druk United skipper in 2013 during the King’s Cup.
His performance in the league caught the attention when an equaliser and an assist led Minerva Punjab FC’s win over NEROCA FC in the second I-League match. He also won the man of the match award for pulling a comeback win against NEROCA FC.
The forward led his team in the first away match against Indian Arrows on December 12 and registered the first away match win of the season in Goa, India.
In the next game, when Minerva Punjab hosted Chennai City, Chencho Gyeltshen was a player to reckon. His cross from side flank ended behind the net to double the rebound equaliser, defeating Chennai City 2-1.
In an email interview, Chencho Gyeltshen said it was hard to gain the trust of club officials, teammates, and coaches when he played for the first time. “Bhutanese footballers are underestimated. I was given less time to play when I played outside for the first time. However, I worked hard to prove my potential.”
In trying to prove his potential, he said that he is also working on opening up opportunities for upcoming Bhutanese players. “It’s difficult to reach where I am today, but I need to keep working hard.”
His career as a professional footballer began in early 2015, when he got a chance to undergo a month-long training in Thailand with Buriram United, a professional Thai football club. Prior to joining Minerva Punjab FC, he also played for Chittagong Abahani in Bangladesh Premier League, after which he was with Thimphu City FC at home.
“I had to choose between education and career and it was the toughest thing to do,” Chencho Gyeltshen, who left schooling after class XII, said. “I believed in myself and chose my career.”
He said that playing in I-League is a dream. “My supporters back home wanted me to play. They believed in my potential and insisted that I play here.”
Chencho Gyeltshen said he is one of the key players. He scored a goal against NEROCA FC, and two assists in four I-League games. “I am satisfied with my performance to date and I aim to perform better,” he said. “My dream is to win the title with the club and to play in Indian Super League.”