The national women’s football team is amongst the lowest-ranked women’s teams in world football. But that doesn’t stop them from striving hard and winning hearts. ‘My vision for Bhutan women’s football is to really use football as a catalyst and tool to enhance, change and improve the lives of everyone involved in women’s football’, says Pema Choden Tshering, an allrounder who plays in midfield for Bhutan’s national team and women’s football team in charge in the country football association.
Bhutan joined FIFA in 2000. Its men’s national team currently stands at 185th rank out of 211 countries in FIFA’s world rankings. The women’s team is 177th out of 187. The domestic men’s league was established in 2012 while its equivalent for women started in 2016 and now has nine teams. The current champion is Paro Women’s FC. A 10th club will join the league next season in Bumthang WFC, a team from a northern district of the country.
The Bhutan Football Federation (BFF) has a total of 219 registered female players. While most come from the big cities, the country’s FA has been trying to establish programs for more remote locations. The Bhutan Football Federation is working hard to develop the next generation to take sports to the next level. Apart from the men’s training centre in Thimphu, Bhutan also has a football academy for girls and women in the southern city of Gelephu. The academy has a pitch and a gym, with the youngest team using the facility being Bhutan’s under-14s.
The national women’s team is being coached by Hong Kyung-suk, a South Korean football coach. Kyung-Suk worked hard with the team during the training sessions ahead of the South Asian Cup which took place in Nepal recently. The team beat Sri Lanka and qualified for the semi-finals, but then Beaten by Bangladesh and got out of the tournament.
With the score of 8-0, the match was rather one-sided, but the coach is not complaining. She was pleased that her team could concentrate on improving skills and muscle strength and trying to play faster than before. Bhutan will also play its first-ever qualifiers for the 2024 Olympics in April.
In the same interview, Tshering further said that female footballers in Bhutan do not really face any prejudice. “We have a very liberal society and sex, religion, caste, etc have no bearing on what profession one takes. For example, a game of darts, which is a traditional sport and [used to be] played by only men, is now very popular with women and there are even many women participating in a darts tournament.”
Both men and women receive a monthly wage of 30,000 Ngultrum. It is a matter of pride as the most dominating football nations are fighting for equal pay.