Football in Bhutan- Road to 2018 World Cup

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Bhutan is a small nation in the Himalayas with two neighbours - China and India. Geopolitics and Football in Bhutan has always been overshadowed by them. But it seems like things are to change.

An issue with being from a small, unpopular country like my Bhutan, is the need to explain to people where you're from. When I got the email from GiveMeSport telling me I'd been selected as a writer, I knew what my first article had to be about. It needed to successfully introduce my country in the context of sports - preferably the beautiful game. 

In Bhutan's first world cup qualifying game ever, it sent a squad that had zero professional players (although, one player had signed for a Professional Club in Thailand just that year and was playing for their B-team).


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This, to the average football fan would sound like an ancient story; given that we're all used to international tournaments that heavily feature professional players. But this happened this year. 

For the game Bhutan played Sri Lanka over two legs - on March 12 and March 17 in Sri Lanka and Thimphu respectively, winning 3-1 on aggregate. While the rest of the world was in shock from this upset victory, the Bhutanese weren't.

To them, it was more a story that had taken too long. After all, it was the lack of proper chances, not the lack of skills that kept the Bhutan National Team confined to the basement of the FIFA rankings. So when the chance came, it was taken and Bhutan moved up 46 places - from 209 to 163

While Bhutan was no longer the lowest ranked national team in FIFA's database, its fans - consisting of native countrymen and some pathological underdog lovers, insisted on using the nickname "Basement Boys" for its next match up. This according to Sangay Thinley, a local football fan who in his professional fan experience supports Liverpool FC, was to remind where the national team had come from in a short time.

Fans' ambitions for the team were high and some dared dream to watch Bhutan play in Russia in 2018; but they were also realistic with their expectations. So when the tailwind that had gotten them high petered out with a loss against the Hong Kong national team, fans were still jubilant. The scoreline 7-0 stung, but to the fans, it was enough that their team played with heart.

In any case, it wasn't game over just yet. China was coming next and it was going to be a home game. It was up to the fans to show which dragon roared louder. (Bhutan's national team is nicknamed the Dragon Boys)

China's superior squad coupled with greater professional experience meant that Bhutan's fans would have to wait for a win. China came and while the scoreline was marginally better for Bhutan given their last loss, it still counted as a thrashing. It had ended 6-0

But there are still more games to go. While it seems highly unlikely that we will watch Bhutan play a country like Germany or England in a World Cup setting any time soon, for most fans, it is the beautiful game, played in a beautiful stadium in a beautiful country of beautiful people that matters the most.

And for Bhutan - a country famous for being happy, happiness is only ever magnified by football, so what's wrong with that?

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