Phuentsholing will this winter host one of the most sought-after football championships, the Jigme Wangchuck Gold Cup, which was on hold since 2006.
The championship was popular among football enthusiasts from Sikkim, Kalimpong, Nepal, and Bhutan.
Started in 1987, the Jigme Wangchuck Gold Cup was an annual football championship that brought in teams from Nepal and India to play with local football clubs in Phuentsholing.
The first team to win the championship was a football club from Janakpur, Nepal. The current titleholder of the championship is a football club from West Bengal, India, Jaigaon sports association, which won the cup in 2006.
Media spokesperson from Bhutan Football Federation (BFF), Phuntsho Wangdi said that the revival was essential considering the history and prominence of the championship with the native. “The championship was most sought after in the region. Every club from Nepal, India, and Bhutan wished to win Gold Cup,” he said.
The resumption of the championship comes at the time when football clubs from home have no bigger championship to play after the end of Thimphu league and the national league in the country.
The championship that begins from January will take in top four teams- Transport United FC, Paro FC, Thimphu City FC, and Ugyen Academy FC from the recently concluded BoB national league.
Phuentsholing FC that finished at the bottom of the national league in its debut would also be given an opportunity to participate because of being the host team.
Officials from BFF said that the Gold Cup was on hold because of infrastructure and there was a need to prioritise certain activities with the federation.
To spread the sport to other parts of the country and to improve the standard of football, the federation will organise similar championships in Samtse and Samdrupjongkhar.
The Samtse and Samdrupjongkhar championships, which will take place in a sequence will take in local clubs and help football develop in the particular region.
BFF’s media officer Phuntsho Wangdi said that Samtse was once known for producing most of the national football players in the country. “Today, there is no club that can take part in the championship. We need to revitalize the potential of the place,” he said. “The championship will be the biggest sporting event in the dzongkhag.”
He added that the championship would enable the private and corporate institutions in dzongkhags to invest in bringing up own local clubs to participate in the championship.
It will cost the federation at least Nu 4 million to conduct the championships and the clubs taking part in the championship will be supported with transportation, lodging, and other supports.
The federation also expects clubs from other parts of the country except for Thimphu and Punakha to become active in the sport.
Safe for the champions of the national league that gets an opportunity to play AFC qualifiers in the winter, the football clubs in the country have to wait for the next edition of Thimphu league and the national league to play.
The championships will be played in league and knockout format.