Following a series of unsuccessful attempts to win a contract with clubs outside Bhutan in last three years, Bhutanese international Lhendup Dorji will play with Lonestar Kashmir FC of India this season.
The 24-year-old midfielder from Paro FC has signed contract for a season with I league second division club based in Jammu and Kashmir in India for 2019 season, which will begin tomorrow.
“I have been trying to play abroad since we won world cup 2018 qualifier playoffs against Sri Lanka in 2015. That was a momentum for us to built on our career. However, I failed to win a contract despite trying repeatedly,” said Lhendup Dorji.
He said that it was difficult to convince foreign clubs considering the level and status of our football. “I am happy that I could win a platform to show my potential to larger audience. This is just the beginning.”
The 2nd division I League this season will play 16 teams from across India and the league functions as the promotion and relegation tier for Hero I league, which is currently halfway through with Real Kashmir FC, former champions of the 2nd division placed second in the table.
Several Indian media reported that the 2nd division acted as a foundation to the I-League for many clubs.
Neroca FC that finished runner-up in the I-League in 2017-18 plays strong this season, and Aizawl FC came through these ranks to eventually win the I-League in the 2016-17 season according to the reports.
Lhendup Dorji was among the experienced players Paro FC signed in their debut national league season and finished as runners up, one point behind the champions Transport United last year.
The runner-up title with Paro FC was his second runner-up title of the premier football competition in the country. He last recorded runners up the title with Thimphu FC and also won the national league with Ugyen Academy FC in 2013.
So far, the player has made nine appearances in Asian and South Asian level competitions and 10 appearances in world cup qualifications.
Winning hearts of his natives in Paro for being best footballer, he began playing school and club football with Ugyen Academy FC at the age of 14.
He went on to represent the country as an under-19 national team and faced football giants of Middle Eastern nations like Qatar, Kuwait, and Bahrain.
The midfielder was also the part of Ugyen Academy FC who played AFC qualification in 2014.
“One of the best moments as a football player at home was winning the national league with Ugyen Academy FC. We are the only club outside Thimphu to win the national league. I feel the history would be difficult to repeat,” he said.
He also played in domestic competitions with Choden FC, Druk Stars, Thimphu FC, Paro United FC, High-Quality United FC, and Paro FC before signing with Lonestar Kashmir FC.
With Lhendup Dorji’s signing with Lonestar Kashmir FC, about four footballers from home have given a trial and played with Indian clubs after Chencho Gyeltshen’s appearance in Minerva Punjab FC and Bengaluru FC.