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An interim coach and a new skipper will lead the Bhutanese national football team when they face Hong Kong today. This is the sixth game in the second round of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers and another good opportunity to face an international team as we build a national team.

More than a game

An interim coach and a new skipper will lead the Bhutanese national football team when they face Hong Kong today. This is the sixth game in the second round of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers and another good opportunity to face an international team as we build a national team.

Football, unfortunately grasped the headlines for the wrong reasons as the head coach was relieved of his duties and Bhutan lost all its qualifiers conceding 32 goals in the process.

There is an open blame game happening and that is not the best preparation for our next fixture. We are out of the World Cup qualifiers and sit at the bottom of the table without a point. We can still gain from being in the competition as playing at this level will give enough exposure to our national team. Qualifying was not the priority as we were aware of the foreboding round against the likes of Qatar and China.

The team without the head coach is already being analysed by the opponent. They are expecting a stronger regrouped or a crest fallen team to take them on. The match for Hong Kong is important as they fight for the top place. Win or lose, there will be analysis.

It is evident that Bhutan is taking a defensive approach. We can park the bus and not concede a goal. If we can limit the damage by conceding fewer goals doubters would be convinced that the strategy adopted by the former coach, now on his way to Japan, was wrong.

The head coach, disappointed at the turn of events mid way through the qualifying round, had no good words to leave for the team. But he felt that taking a defensive approach was not going to improve the players. He believed in the skills of the young players and wanted to use his strategy – all out attack even when conceding goals – to build a team from scratch. This is a strong message that we are still building a team from start.

Football is not judged by a single game although because of the poor success rate, a win or a draw gives the occasional spectator a satisfying experience. To the credit of the national team and the Bhutan Football Federation, football has developed a commendable sense of professionalism. Yet there is much left to be done.

This starts with the players. Professional football is a career and not a pastime. Although not paid enough to make a living off football, our national players need to follow the route. They shouldn’t hate the coach for not letting them off for shopping or clubbing when on national duty. Professional footballers, no matter how good they suddenly lose their place when found drinking or even straying out of the team hotel. Discipline is a part of the game.

Meanwhile, there are now questions arising on how the federation is run. Although not openly discussed and limited to social media, some are saying that football in Bhutan will improve only if the federation officials are changed. This could be out of frustration, but it is true that we need more than football enthusiasts to run federations. We need trained professionals.

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2 comments

  1. Even an ordinary spectator like me has been convinced now that the strategy adopted by the former coach was not compatible with our players. What discontented me the most was that during the match with Qatar, the former coach decided not to change the strategy after the first half-time even after conceding 8 goals. If our boys had played defensive, we would not have conceded that many goals from Qatar and other countries. The development of skills must be the focus during the training, not during such matches of international significance. While I agree that discipline is an integral part of the game, I also believe that the sentiments of the players must also be respected. After all, it is the personal contentment that motivates the players to perform better. Nobody can expect someone who has been strictly dictated and controlled to play for us with great enthusiasm and passion. We all are unenlightened human beings after all!

  2. When a game of football starts with a strategy in place and game plan in hand against that particular opponent; the team is bound to continue with it or execute fresh plans and even new strategic inputs reaching them live from the coach on the side line. This is something that even we understand as mere spectators of the game. But what the coach probably doesn’t want to see is his players getting into their natural comfort zone after conceding a few quick goals. At the same time, we also expect the coach to be ready with a new game plan where the players can react accordingly with every passing minute.

    Football is one such game where a young kid learning to play the game can develop a few skills and physical strength individually, but he still needs to learn the game in a team. So coaching matters here from that young age and that will shape the natural comfort zone of players at this highest level. This is also the scene where we want the federation to deliver towards quality of football with well built and trained teams from the very junior level. Not just coaches, but even the spectators and supporters of the game can easily spot exceptional talents in a team.

    Enthusiasts against well trained professionals is an interesting debate, but the federation must have people who understand the game played on the field for its quality or lack of it. The sport shouldn’t be taken for granted. With a few hours left for the game against Hong Kong, let’s wish the new coach and the captain all the best and hope that the entire team gives their best today. As spectators, we only know to watch the game, support the team and be entertained.

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