Profile: Twenty years from now, when football enthusiasts rummage through the dusty newspapers that have recorded the history of football in the country, they will read about all the great names in the sport today.
There will surely be Chencho Gyeltshen, who through sheer hard work and dedication became the country’s first professional footballer. Some will admire Chencho’s passion for the game and some will be inspired to be like him.
Gallant efforts from veteran players on the field including promising young athletes who had raised the standard of the game shall be marvelled upon.
But amidst the immortality of some of the greatest players Bhutan had produced, many won’t be acknowledged for their contributions towards the game. Several players who are considered underrated today, won’t be remembered for their fleeting but timeless contributions to the development of football in the country.
Biren Basnet is one of those underrated players in the national squad today. The 22-year-old has been a key performer in both the national team and his club, Thimphu City FC.
A natural winger with agility and speed, Biren has scored more than 45 goals in three years with Thimphu City. He has a record of 10 goals in 10 games at the Thimphu league this year.
As a national player, Biren has appeared in more than 20 international matches. He scored his third international goal against Maldives on October 8 during the second round of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers last year.
Biren started his footballing career with the under-16 national team. His passion for the game was discovered much earlier when he used to play for his school team in Chukha.
“My inspiration came from my father who is a keen footballer,” said Biren. As a kid, Biren used to accompany his father during his football matches in Phuentsholing and Chukha. “I learned football from my father.”
Because of football, Biren received several scholarships starting from his high school to his university educations, which he is currently pursuing at the Royal Thimphu College.
While in Ugyen Academy, Biren helped his team, Ugyen Academy FC, win their first national league championship and entered the King’s Cup tournament in 2014.
Considered a multitalented player, Biren can easily adjust to new positions during games. One moment he can be seen dashing along the sidelines as a winger and the next moment he will be defending at the backline.
Senior player with the national team, Karun Gurung, said that not many players can use both legs as swiftly as Biren can. “He can kick, shoot, pass and dribble very effectively with both his feet,” he said, adding that Biren is comfortable playing on either flank.
Karun Gurung said that Biren’s presence has always been crucial and his gameplay consistent in any game, local and international. “He is one of the most reliable players in the team, club and country and his presence definitely gives us confidence.”
In his footballing career so far, Biren has always started in the first-11. He said that his skills and game sense has improved significantly over the last few years.
“This is not the end. I can still get better than my current form if I keep practising,” he said. “But it is not only about improving my own skills. Football is a team game. We improve as a team and we win as a team. Football in Bhutan has improved a lot.”