Bhutan national football team

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Bhutan
Nickname(s) Druk Eleven[1]
Druk Yul[2]
Dragon Boys[3]
Association Bhutan Football Federation
Confederation AFC (Asia)
Sub-confederation SAFF (South Asia)
Head coach Pema Dorji
Captain Karma Shedrup Tshering[4]
Top scorer Chencho Gyeltshen (7)[5]
Home stadium Changlimithang Stadium
FIFA code BHU
First colours
Second colours
FIFA ranking
Current 192 Decrease 4 (14 July 2016)
Highest 156 (June 2015)
Lowest 209 (November 2014 – February 2015)
Elo ranking
Current 230 (29 March 2016)
Highest 190 (1 April 1982)
Lowest 231 (6 September 2013)
First international
   Nepal 3–1 Bhutan 
(Kathmandu, Nepal; 1 April 1982)
Biggest win
 Bhutan 6–0 Guam 
(Thimphu, Bhutan; April 23, 2003)
Biggest defeat
 Kuwait 20–0 Bhutan 
(Kuwait City, Kuwait; February 14, 2000)
World Cup
Appearances None
Best result Qualifying – second round
AFC Asian Cup
Appearances None
South Asian Football Federation Cup
Appearances 7 (First in 2003)
Best result Semi-finals, 2008

The Bhutan national football team represents Bhutan in international men's football. The team is controlled by the governing body for football in Bhutan, the Bhutan Football Federation (BFF), which is a member of the Asian Football Federation and the regional body the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF). The team play their home games at the national stadium, Changlimithang. The side have consistently been ranked as the worst, or one of the worst national teams in the world on both the official FIFA rankings and the Elo rating system. As of the end of 2015 they have won only eight competitive fixtures against other international teams and have a goal difference of −251 in official matches. The team have never qualified for the finals of a major tournament and beyond friendlies and qualifying matches, their only official competition has been in the regional South Asian Games and the South Asian Football Federation Cup.

They are one of the younger national teams in the world having played their first official match in 1982 in the ANFA Cup. Prior to this, a nominal representative team consisting mainly of imported players from India competed in a number of regional tournaments. Throughout the 1980s Bhutan's appearances on the international scene were restricted to the South Asian Games where they lost every game they played that decade having to wait until 1987 to score their first goal outside of the ANFA Cup.

Through the 1990s they made only one international appearance, again at the South Asian Games in 1999 and again losing all their matches. Their first continental appearance occurred the following year when they travelled to Kuwait to take part in qualifying for the 2000 AFC Asian Cup. Their qualifying performance was not positive and they headed home with their losing streak now sat at sixteen games and their performance in Kuwait including a then world record 20–0 defeat to the hosts. Following a seventeenth straight defeat to Bangladesh the next year, Bhutan recorded their first ever win in 2002, just over twenty years since their début on the international stage, a victory over Montserrat in a game organised by a Dutch advertising agency, sanctioned by FIFA to coincide with the 2002 FIFA World Cup Final and itself known as The Other Final.

They were unable to build on this victory though and a further five straight defeats followed before their next win, a 6–0 defeat of Guam in 2004 AFC Asian Cup qualification. This result coupled with a 0–0 draw with Mongolia was to be their most successful set of official results until their back to back victories over Sri Lanka in 2015. A further thirteen losses accompanied by only two draws followed in the next five years before Bhutan produced their best performance to date at a tournament, reaching the semi-finals of the 2008 SAFF Championship, narrowly missing out on their first ever final losing in the last minute of extra time to India.

This would prove to be a high point for Bhutanese football as they embarked on a run of nineteen straight defeats over the following five years. However, on 12 March 2015 Bhutan won their first World Cup Qualifying tie at the first time of asking, beating Sri Lanka 1–0 in Colombo, with the winning goal scored by Tshering Dorji in the 84th minute. A week later, they earned another victory against Sri Lanka 2–1 in Thimphu, securing the qualification to the second round with an aggregate score of 3–1. this was to be their only success in this qualifying tournament however, as they lost all of their subsequent group games.

History[edit]

Beginnings[edit]

In the same way that there is uncertainty around the manner in which football as a sport in general came to be, so there is equal uncertainty around how the game was ultimately brought to Bhutan.[6] During the colonial period Bhutan, although it had signed treaties with the government of India which ceded control of its defence and foreign relations to the British, continued to function as an independent state and was never under the direct rule of the British government in India.[7] Whereas Indians were introduced to football by the British government, the lack of a permanent British presence in Bhutan meant that foreign sports were not played there.[7] The arrival of football in Bhutan was very closely linked with the opening of schools in Haa and Paro in the 1950s, as foreign teachers, mainly from India but some from Europe, were recruited.[8] The Bhutan Football Federation note that in the beginning there was little in the way of formal facilities or equipment and the game was played on stone-covered pitches with a ball made from a bundle of clothes.[6] The game continued to grow as more Bhutanese went abroad, mainly to India, to study and helped increase the popularity of the sport upon their return, though the game was still considered to be just that and was not really developed during this period.[6]

The main centres for football during the 1960s were Phuentsholing and Samtse, close to the border with India, where hastily arranged teams would travel back and forth over the border to play neighbouring tea gardens. In 1968, a team nominally representing Bhutan, but essentially consisting of foreign players travelled to Calcutta to compete in the Indian Independence Cup.[8] Over time football gradually increased in popularity until it was seen as an essential part of the school curriculum, with numerous school tournaments established within Thimphu.[6] Teams used to travel from all over the country to take part, some coming from as far away as Khaling.[6] However, regardless of the popularity of the game amongst the Bhutanese, the notion of a Bhutan "national team" consisting almost entirely of foreigners persisted for some time, and this team would regularly travel abroad to take part in international competitions such as the ANFA Cup, with a team consisting of around 60% Indian players.[6] These Indian players were brought to Bhutan and given jobs within the Civil Service, although essentially their role was to play football.[6]

In the late 1970s and early 1980, as well as playing several matches in Bhutan, the representative team, known as Druk 11, also played a number of games outside the country in Nepal and India, against representative teams such as the Food Corporation of India.[9] At that time, eight out of the eleven members of the team were from India.[9] Such a situation could not last however, and in time these players either retired or returned to their home country creating a vacuum of talent which would seriously affect the national team in the years to come.[6]

1980s[edit]

Given that international competition had been taking place since 1872,[10] Bhutan's official entry into the international arena was comparatively late, playing their first match only in 1982, a 3–1 loss to Nepal in the 1982 ANFA Cup.[11] However, it should be noted that other sources also indicate that a team representing Bhutan travelled to Nepal eight years earlier and won a tournament known as the Shripanch Mahendra Gold Cup, though it is not clear the extent to which this was a true international tournament or whether they were competing against club teams.[12] They also played a representative team from China's Kunming Army Unit in the competition, also losing 3–1.[13] Unfortunately, the scorers for Bhutan are not recorded, so it is unknown who scored Bhutan's first international goal.[13] It is interesting to note that Bhutan's involvement in the ANFA Cup came some seven years before the inauguration of their own league competition. Again however, sources are contradictory with some indicating that a tournament that at least shared the name "A-League" was established in Thimphu sometime around the beginning of the 1980s.[9]

Despite the at best fledgling nature of their domestic competition at that time, Bhutan continued to put out a side, this time in the South Asian Games. They entered the first games in 1984, but lost all three of their games, 2–0 to Bangladesh, 5–0 to hosts and eventual winners Nepal and 1–0 to the Maldives to finish last out of the four competing teams.[14] It is unclear whether a play off for third place was held between Bhutan and the Maldives. If it was, then the result is not known. Either way, the bronze medal was awarded to the Maldives.[14]

Undeterred, Bhutan sent a team to the following year's competition in Bangladesh. Results went the same way as the prior year's tournament. Bhutan were drawn in group B of the competition along with India and Nepal.[15] They lost their first match narrowly, 1–0 to Nepal and were beaten 3–0 by eventual champions India to ensure that they finished bottom of the group and did not progress.[15]

The national team did not play any fixtures for the next two years as the South Asian Games moved to become a biennial competition,[11] though they again sent a team to the third edition of the games in Kolkata, India.[16] Drawn in group B again, this time with Nepal and Bangladesh, history repeated itself, as Bhutan lost first to Bangladesh 3–0, with Badal Das, Kaiser Hamid and Ahmed Ali scoring for Bangladesh,[16] and then 6–2 to Nepal.[16] Whilst their two goals ended a five-year, six-game scoring drought,[11] they were thoroughly outclassed as Ganesh Thapa scored five times for Nepal.[16]

1990s[edit]

Despite establishing the first recorded football league in Bhutan in 1986,[17] and while the BFF were admitted as members of the AFC in 1994,[18] the national team did not compete in any matches following their defeat to Nepal in the South Asian Games until 1999, missing four editions of the Games, returning only in 1999.[19]

Their absence from the international arena had not seen an improvement in the standard of their football, even though there had been a national championship established in the country for the previous four seasons.[17] Their first game against hosts Nepal ended in a resounding 7–0 defeat.[19] The team found themselves 3–0 down within the first twenty minutes as Hari Khadka scored in the first and fifth minutes, with Naresh Joshi extending the lead after eighteen.[19] Bhutan were able to keep Nepal at bay for the rest of the half, but conceded two more either side of the hour mark courtesy of Deepak Amatya and Rajan Rayamajhi before a brace from Basanta Thapa sealed an emphatic victory for Nepal.[19] They performed better defensively in their next match, but still lost 3–0 to India, Vijayam Imivalappil scoring all three goals for India.[19] Out of the competition, Bhutan faced a dead-rubber against Pakistan, who were also eliminate prior to the fixture following losses to India and Nepal.[19] With nothing to play for, they produced their best performance of the tournament. Dinesh Chhetri opened the scoring for Bhutan in the twenty-first minute, the first time they had led a game in their history, only to see a potential victory disappear following two second-half goals for Pakistan from Haroon Yousaf.[19]

2000–2001[edit]

A bar chart contextualising Bhutan's defeat against Kuwait amidst the largest margins of victory in international football since 1997.[20]

At the turn of the century, having spent the best part of the last two decades competing only against teams within South Asia, Bhutan made their first foray into international football at a continental level, competing in the qualification rounds for the 2000 AFC Asian Cup. This tournament was to be one of the lowest points in the history of the admittedly hastily assembled national team.[21] An opening 3–0 loss to Nepal was perhaps not surprising, with Bhutan never having gained any form of positive result against their himalayan neighbours, and at this point in time having scored against them only once in the ANFA Cup back in 1982.[22] Four days later they faced Kuwait and were beaten 20–0.[22] Seven of the ten Kuwaiti outfield players got their names on the scoresheet that day, including Bashar Abdullah who scored eight and Jassem Al-Houwaidi who scored five. Bhutan were seriously hampered in this game by their years in the footballing wilderness, but did not help themselves in the match conceding four penalties in total for what were described as "rugby-like challenges" and having two players sent off.[23] This defeat was a world record international defeat, though this most undesirable of records was only held for fourteen months when Australia beat Tonga 22–0.[24] As of 2016 this remains their worst ever result. Further heavy defeats were to follow, an 8–0 loss to Turkmenistan was followed by an 11–2 defeat to Yemen. Following this qualifying tournament, having been established in 1983, the Bhutan Football Federation were admitted as the 204th[18] member of FIFA.[25]

2002: The Other Final[edit]

Main article: The Other Final

Their defeats in 2000 in AFC Cup qualifying had left Bhutan ranked as the world's second worst national team with thirteen points in the official FIFA rankings, sandwiched between American Samoa above and Montserrat below.[26] At this time, following the Netherlands failure to qualify for the 2002 FIFA World Cup, two Dutch ad-agency partners, Johan Kramer and Matthijs de Jongh, not having their home team to cheer on pondered who the worst team in the world might be. With Bhutan and Montserrat so close to each other at the bottom of the FIFA rankings, they set out to arrange a match between the two nations.[27] Montserrat, their only pitch having been destroyed by one of the island nation's seven active volcanoes,[27] agreed to the match and travelled to Bhutan for the game, held at Changlimithang a few hours before the actual World Cup Final,[28] a match authorised by FIFA.[29] The game started strongly for Montserrat and Bhutan struggled to contain them during early exchanges.[1] However, initial nerves were settled after five minutes when Wangay Dorji headed a goal to give Bhutan the lead.[1] This gave them the momentum to press on, but their finishing was lax and they were unable to convert the chances they created.[1] Montserrat were able to keep Bhutan at bay for the rest of the half and the game remained at 1–0 until well past the hour mark when English referee Steve Bennett awarded Bhutan a freekick. Dorji stepped up and scored his second of the game.[1] The momentum remained with Bhutan and veteran striker Dinesh Chhetri scored a third before Dorji took full advantage of a tiring Montserratian team to complete his hat trick and seal a 4–0 victory,[1] Bhutan's first victory on the international stage against any opposition, indeed their first ever result of any kind and the first time they had ever kept a clean sheet.[11]

2003–2005[edit]

However, despite this memorable victory, Bhutan were unable to carry this form forward into competitive matches. Although the Bhutan Football Federation now received substantial payments as a member of FIFA, there was still very little money in the game for players, even those who played for the national team.[30] Players who were unemployed outside of football had to exist on a stipend from the federation of only Nu 3–5,500 per month and there were no internationally certified coaches in the country at all, only amateurs and school teachers.[30] It is no surprise then that Bhutan were defeated in all three games in the 2003 South Asian Football Federation Gold Cup, losing 6–0 to the Maldives, 2–0 to Nepal and 3–0 to hosts Bangladesh, returning home bottom of their group without scoring a single goal.[31] They took advantage though in their next set of matches as they hosted Group F of the preliminary qualifying round for the 2004 AFC Asian Cup.[32] Drawn with Guam and Mongolia, two teams ranked much closer to them than the majority of their previous opposition, they began their campaign with a 6–0 victory over Guam (a result that as of 2016 is still their record victory) and followed it up with a 0–0 draw against Mongolia to top their group and progress to the qualifying round proper.[32] The victory over Guam was their biggest ever margin of victory to date and the two games undefeated in this group represents Bhutan's best run of form to date as of 2014.[11] In the next stage though they were drawn against much stronger opposition in the shape of Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Yemen.[32] Faced with this increase in quality, Bhutan were outclassed in all six of their qualifying games, losing all of them and again failing to score a single goal in the process.[32]

Their losing run continued into the 2005 South Asian Football Federation Gold Cup, where yet again they were to return home winless, losing 3–0 to Bangladesh and India respectively and 3–1 to Nepal, Bikash Pradhan scoring their only goal of the tournament, a consolation goal with Nepal already 3–0 up in what was a dead rubber for both sides.[33]

2006–2010[edit]

The next three years saw something of an improvement in results for Bhutan. Entering the inaugural AFC Challenge Cup, they suffered narrow defeats to Nepal, 2–0 and Sri Lanka 1–0, before holding Brunei to a 0–0 draw.[34] Although they failed to score and did not progress to the main competition, the draw against Brunei was their first positive result of any kind for nearly three years following a similar 0–0 draw with Mongolia and ended an eleven match losing streak.[11] They did not play any international matches for the next two years, appearing again on the continental stage in the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup.[35] Their performance was similar to the previous Challenge Cup, opening with a 3–1 loss to Tajikistan, Passang Tshering scoring for Bhutan after sixty-nine minutes, only for the Tajiks to seal the victory from the penalty spot in the dying minutes through Numonjon Hakimov.[35] Bhutan achieved a better result in the next game, drawing 1–1 with Brunei. Nawang Dendhup gave Bhutan the initial advantage, a lead which they held until the seventy sixth minute when Khayrun Bin Salleh equalised.[35] Although a 3–0 loss to the Philippines in their final group game confirmed that again Bhutan would not be progressing to the competition proper. However, the two goals they scored and the draw achieved, meant that they finished in third place in the group above Brunei.[35]

Bhutan built on the positive results they had gained from the previous two tournaments when they took part in the 2008 SAFF Championship. A late Nima Sangay goal was sufficient to give them a share of the points in their opening game against Bangladesh.[36] They could not repeat the performance against the hosts Sri Lanka in their next game, losing 2–0, but recovered in their final game to record a 3–1 victory over Afghanistan, Yeshey Gyeltshen scoring twice and his namesake Yeshey Dorji getting the third before H.A. Habib scored a consolation for the Afghans.[36] Sri Lanka beat Bangladesh in the other final group game to ensure that Bhutan finished as runners-up in the group and qualified for the knock-out rounds of a tournament for the first time in their history. They met India in the semi-finals and took the lead through Kinley Dorji after eighteen minutes. It was a lead they would hold for less than fifteen minutes though as Sunil Chhetri equalised before halftime.[36] With no further goals in the second half, the game went to extra time only for Bhutan to see the possibility of victory snatched from them at the very last moment as Gouramangi Singh scored in added time at the end of extra time to claim the narrowest of victories for India.[36] Nonetheless, the semi-final appearance is Bhutan's best performance in any tournament as of 2016.

Unfortunately, they were again not been able to build on these positive performances. Their loss to India was the start of the longest losing streak in their history, which was ultimately to last for nineteen games.[11] The 2010 AFC Challenge Cup qualifying competition began with a narrow 1–0 loss to the Philippines,[37] but quickly worsened as Bhutan lost 7–0 to Turkmenistan and 5–0 to the Maldives to return home yet again without a point or scoring.[37]

A Passang Tshering goal was of little consolation as a 2–1 friendly loss to Nepal failed to end the streak,[11] before a similarly poor 2009 SAFF Championship saw them lose 4–1 to Bangladesh, 6–0 to Sri Lanka and 7–0 to Pakistan, a Nawang Dendhup penalty against Bangladesh being their only reward in all three games.[38]

2011 to present day[edit]

Bhutan lining up vs. Maldives at the 2013 SAFF Championship

Bhutan withdrew from the international stage for the next two years, re-emerging to play two back to back friendly matches against Nepal in preparation for the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup. Both of these games resulted in narrow losses, 1–0 and 2–1.[11] Their 2012 AFC Challenge Cup qualification was essentially over before it started. Rather than being drawn in a group for initial qualification, the process was changed so that the lowest-ranked eight teams entering the competition played-off over two legs on a home-and-away basis.[39] Bhutan perhaps suffered from the fact that neither leg was played in Bhutan, with both matches taking place at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium, Gurgaon, India,[40][41] but nonetheless, a hat-trick from Sidiq Walizada in the first leg to give Afghanistan a 3–0 lead,[42] made the second leg, which Afghanistan won 2–0, essentially irrelevant.[42] A disappointing year was compounded with three successive defeats in the 2011 SAFF Championship, Bhutan losing 3–0 to Sri Lanka, 5–0 to India and finally 8–1 to Afghanistan, Chencho Gyeltshen's consolation being the only positive from the year's competition.[43]

The team played only one match in 2012, a 5–0 loss friendly to Thailand,[44] prior to the 2013 SAFF Championship. This tournament, produced an almost identical result to the previous SAFF championship, Bhutan opened the competition losing 3–0 to Afghanistan,[45] then 8–2 to the Maldives despite being 2–1 up at one point and level going into halftime,[45] before rounding off another miserable year with a 5–2 loss to Sri Lanka.[45] One of the main reasons suggested for Bhutan's significant drop in form was the amount of money available to players, even those who played for the national team. Yeshey Dorji, one of the country's leading players, announced his retirement following the 2013 SAFF Championships, citing an inability to generate a sufficient living from football as the main reason.[46] In 2014, the Bhutan Football Federation withdrew the Nu 4,000 monthly payment to players in the national team,[46] and whilst money is spent at grass roots, more needs to be spent on the national team as former national head coach Kazunori Ohara noted, once players get to the end of school age they often drop out of football completely.[46]

2018 World Cup Qualification[edit]

In 2015, Bhutan made their first ever attempt to qualify for the FIFA World Cup entering the qualifiers for the 2018 edition. In preparation for their qualifying campaign, and in an attempt to improve the overall standard of football in the country and attract more players, the Bhutan Football Federation offered a monthly salary of Ng 10,000 to all players in the main national squad who are not currently on federation scholarships.[47]

In their first ever qualifying match, they faced Sri Lanka in the two-legged Preliminary Round.[48] In the first leg in Colombo, Bhutan produced a shock result, beating their hosts 1–0, with Tshering Dorji scoring the winner in the eighty-fourth minute.[49] This result even drew praise from now-disgraced FIFA president Sepp Blatter who described the result as "a wonderful, historic moment" on Twitter, though Sri Lanka coach Nikola Kavazovic, whilst conceding Bhutan were the better team remained confident that his team would ultimately be victorious.[49] The result was met very positively in Bhutan, with the team featuring heavily in the news.[50] Anticipation ahead of the second leg at Changlimithang ran high, a half-day holiday was declared by the government for students and public sector employees and the gates to the ground were opened four hours prior to kick off.[51] The game started positively for Bhutan as Chencho Gyeltshen, the country's only professional footballer,[51] scored in the sixth minute.[52] However, Sri Lanka equalised before half time through Subash Madushan.[52] A disallowed goal for each side increased the tension as the game progressed[51] but in injury time at the end of the second half Gyeltshen scored his second goal of the match to seal a 3–1 aggregate victory,[52] ensuring they advanced to Round 2 in the AFC qualifying section whilst Sri Lanka were eliminated. In qualifying for the second phase of the competition, Bhutan were guaranteed at least a place in the play-off round for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.[53]

For the next stage, Bhutan were drawn in Group C, along with China, Qatar, Hong Kong, and the Maldives, all sides ranked higher than Sri Lanka in the FIFA rankings. Against these much stronger teams, their results were not as successful. In their first game, they lost 7–0 against Hong Kong in the Mong Kok Stadium,[54] and then 6–0 less than a week later against China at Changlimithang, the first time despite their lowly ranking that Bhutan had been beaten at home in an official international match.[55] Results got worse still in the following match as they lost 15–0 to Qatar, their heaviest defeat since their then world record 20–0 loss to Kuwait in 2000.[56] The next two matches saw an improvement in their fortunes. Though both were lost, the scorelines were much more narrow. Firstly a 4–3 home defeat to the Maldives, in which Bhutan showed a spirited display to come back from 4–0 down in the final five minutes.[57] At half time in the match, following a disagreement with team manager Hishey Tshering, coach Norio Tsukitate was sacked, his rigid methodology having created significant friction between himself and the overall team management.[58] Secondly a 1–0 home loss to Hong Kong, the winning goal coming in the penultimate minute of the match for the visitors.[59] This was a result that pleased the Bhutan Football Federation so much that they awarded all of the players involved in the match a Nu 25,000 bonus to reflect their "brilliant performance".[60] However the improvement in their performances was not to last and a visit to China resulted in a 12–0 loss,[61] and a home match against Qatar another loss, this time 3–0.[62]

Following their World Cup qualifying attempt, Bhutan entered the eleventh SAFF Championship, held in India between 23 December 2015 and 3 January 2016.[63] Originally scheduled to take place in July 2015, the monsoon season and schedule congestion led to the tournament being postponed to late December.[63] Their performance was identical to their efforts in the last four tournaments as the team lost all three group games beginning with a 3–1 defeat to the Maldives, Tshering Dorji scoring for Bhutan after 20 minutes,[64] and followed by two 3–0 losses to Afghanistan[65] and Bangladesh[66] to be eliminated from the competition.

Prior to their last qualifying match, the national team visited Thailand where they played two back to back charity friendly matches against reigning Thai League champions Buriram United. Although they were playing against a club side rather than a fellow national team, Bhutan were soundly beaten in both matches; firstly 6–0[67] and then 9–0 in a rematch the following day,[68] with Buriram's new signing Weslley scoring five times across the two matches.

A final 4–2 defeat against the Maldives in Malé confirmed Bhutan's last place finish in their group with a −47 goal difference and extending their losing run in official competition to twelve games.[69]

2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualification[edit]

Bar the initial victories over Sri Lanka, one of the few positives to be taken from their inaugural world cup qualifying campaign was that their presence in the second round guaranteed their qualification for the qualifying playoff round of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.[70] According to the calendar published by the AFC, there will be two rounds of play-off matches to determine the final eight qualifiers for the third round.[71] The draw was made on 7 April 2016, at the AFC House in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.[72] The first round of matches will be played between 2 and 7 June 2016 and the second round of matches between 6 September and 11 October 2016.[71] As the lowest ranked of all the teams taking part in the play-off round, Bhutan will enter in Round II, where they will play a losing team from Round I; either Tajikistan or Bangladesh.[73] These two matches will take place on 6 September and 11 October 2016 respectively.[73]

Team image[edit]

Colours[edit]

The flag of Bhutan which is closely echoed in the national team's colours

Bhutan's current home colours are orange shirts with yellow trim and a yellow dragon motif, orange shorts and orange socks. Their away colours is predominantly white with orange trim on the shirt and shorts and an orange dragon motif. Both their home and away colours are so closely aligned to the national colours and pattern of the Flag of Bhutan that they essentially mirror it. The current manufacturer of the national colours is EGO Sport.[74]

There are three main themes contained within Bhutan's home colours, all of which have wider symbolism within the nation as outlined in the Constitution of Bhutan. Firstly, the use of orange signifies Buddhist spiritual tradition, particularly the Drukpa Kagyu and Nyingma schools.[75] Secondly, the use of yellow in the trim and also as the colour of the dragon motif signifies civil tradition and temporal authority as embodied in the Druk Gyalpo, the Dragon King of Bhutan, whose royal garb traditionally includes a yellow kabney (scarf).[75] Finally, the dragon motif employed is the Druk (Dzongkha: འབྲུག་) the "Thunder Dragon" of Bhutanese mythology and a Bhutanese national symbol,[76] though the dragon depicted in the team's colours does not hold the jewels representing wealth that are found on the national flag, though the similar snarling mouth of the dragon symbolizes the Bhutanese deities' commitment to the defense of Bhutan.[77]

The orange theme and that of the dragon motif noted above are carried over into the away colours. Additionally, the predominant white theme mirrors the colour of the dragon on the national flag which signifies the purity of inner thoughts and deeds that unite all the ethnically and linguistically diverse peoples of Bhutan.[78][75]

Kit history[edit]

Home

2014
2015–

Away

2014
2015–

[edit]

The logo of the national team is identical to that used for its governing body, the Bhutan Football Federation. It consists of a football surrounded by two concentric circles, one yellow, one orange, representing the Dragon King of Bhutan and the Buddhist tradition in the country, overlaid on a Himalayan blue poppy (Meconopsis horridula), the national flower of Bhutan.[79] Below this is a wish-fulfilling jewel, similar to that located at the top of the official Emblem of Bhutan.[75]

Home stadium[edit]

View of the main stand at Changlimithang

Changlimithang Stadium is a multi-purpose stadium in Thimphu, Bhutan, which serves as the National Stadium. It is predominantly used for football matches and is the home of both the Bhutan national football team and a number of Thimphu-based football clubs who play in both the A-Division and the National League. In addition to football, the stadium also regularly plays host to major archery tournaments, the national sport of Bhutan.[80] The stadium was initially constructed in 1974 for the coronation of the fourth Druk Gyalpo, Jigme Singye Wangchuck,[80] but was completely refurbished in 2007 in advance of the coronation of the fifth Druk Gyalpo, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.[81] Floodlighting was added to the football pitch in 2009[82] and an artificial pitch was laid in 2012 to coincide with the start of the first season of the National League.[83] Unusually for a national stadium, and as a result of the conversion of the playing surface to artificial turf, the football field at Changlimithang is available for public hire and is extremely popular with people in Thimphu.[84]

Players[edit]

Current squad[edit]

The following squad was selected for the 2018 World Cup qualifying match against the Maldives on 29 March 2016.[85]

Caps and goals updated as of 29 March 2016, after the match against the Maldives.

0#0 Pos. Player Date of birth (age) Caps Goals Club
1 1GK Tshering Dendup (1994-04-04) 4 April 1994 (age 22) 3 0 Bhutan Yeedzin
19 1GK Kinzang Gyeltshen 0 0
21 1GK Hari Gurung (1992-02-18) 18 February 1992 (age 24) 17 0 Bhutan Yeedzin

3 2DF Dhan Bahadur Biswa (1994-07-06) 6 July 1994 (age 22) 1 0
5 2DF Man Bahadur Gurung (1993-03-15) 15 March 1993 (age 23) 13 0 Bhutan Thimphu City
6 2DF Chimi Dorji (1993-12-22) 22 December 1993 (age 22) 20 0 Bhutan Druk Star
11 2DF Karma Nidup (1993-12-31) 31 December 1993 (age 22) 9 0 Bhutan Thimphu City
15 2DF Kuenga Gyeltshen (1992-05-05) 5 May 1992 (age 24) 4 0 Bhutan Druk United

8 3MF Karma Shedrup Tshering (C) (1990-04-09) 9 April 1990 (age 26) 19 0 Bhutan Thimphu City
9 3MF Thinley Dorji (1990-05-05) 5 May 1990 (age 26) 6 0 Bhutan Yeedzin
10 3MF Diwash Subba (1989-03-09) 9 March 1989 (age 27) 10 0 Bhutan Yeedzin
14 3MF Dawa Tshering 1 0 Bhutan Ugyen Academy
16 3MF Tshering Dorji (1993-09-10) 10 September 1993 (age 22) 16 4 Bhutan Thimphu City
17 3MF Biren Basnet (1994-10-20) 20 October 1994 (age 21) 15 1 Bhutan Thimphu City
22 3MF Lhendup Dorji (1994-12-05) 5 December 1994 (age 21) 13 0 Bhutan Druk Star
23 3MF Karun Gurung (1986-06-09) 9 June 1986 (age 30) 16 0 Bhutan Terton

7 4FW Chencho Gyeltshen (1996-05-10) 10 May 1996 (age 20) 21 7 Thailand Satun United
12 4FW Lungtok Dawa (1998-12-18) 18 December 1998 (age 17) 9 0 Bhutan Druk Star
13 4FW Tshering Wangdi 7 0 Bhutan Druk United
18 4FW Kezang Wangdi 4 0 Bhutan Druk Star
20 4FW Sonam Tobgay 1 0

Note: Clubs, caps and dates of birth taken from player pages at National Football Teams. See individual player articles for references.

Recent call-ups[edit]

The following players have also been called up to the Bhutan squad within the last twelve months.

Pos. Player Date of birth (age) Caps Goals Club Latest call-up
DF Jigme Dorji (1995-02-26) 26 February 1995 (age 21) 15 0 Bhutan Thimphu City v.  Bangladesh, 28 December 2015
DF Dawa Gyeltshen (1992-07-17) 17 July 1992 (age 24) 19 0 Bhutan Thimphu City v.  Bangladesh, 28 December 2015

MF Thinley Dorji (1990-05-05) 5 May 1990 (age 26) 6 0 Bhutan Yeedzin v.  Hong Kong, 13 October 2015
MF Passang Tshering (1983-07-16) 16 July 1983 (age 33) 23 5 Bhutan Thimphu City v.  China PR, 12 November 2015
MF Ugyen Dorji (1993-12-23) 23 December 1993 (age 22) 4 0 Bhutan Terton v.  Bangladesh, 28 December 2015
MF Sonam Phuntsho (1995-10-13) 13 October 1995 (age 20) 0 0 v.  Bangladesh, 28 December 2015

Note: RET — Retired from the national team

Recent results and upcoming fixtures[edit]

2015[edit]

2016[edit]

Rankings[edit]

FIFA[edit]

Bhutan Average Yearly FIFA Rankings 2000–2015.

Prior to the victories over Sri Lanka, their highest FIFA ranking achieved was 187th, which they last reached in December 2008 following their semi-final performance in the 2008 SAFF Championship.[86] From that high point, they slipped down the rankings to last place in December 2012 to join San Marino and the Turks and Caicos Islands in 207th.[86] They fell to 208th place following the admission to FIFA of South Sudan in July 2014,[86] and dropped to 209th as the only team without ranking points following San Marino's draw with Estonia.[87] However, Bhutan rose to 163rd on the FIFA rankings after two victories over Sri Lanka in World Cup qualifying, achieving their highest ranking ever in April 2015.[88] They then rose to 156th in June 2015.[89] However, following their performance in the second round of world cup qualifying in which they have failed to win a game, they slipped back to 193rd as of February,[90] but have since risen to 186th as of April 2016.[91]

Elo Ratings[edit]

Bhutan Year End Elo Ratings 1984–2015.

The team are also ranked extremely low on the all time Elo ratings at 230th out of 234 as of the end of 2015.[92] There are no FIFA affiliated teams ranked below them with the other four spots taken by Kiribati, Tibet, the Northern Marianas Islands and Palau respectively.[92] Their initial comparatively high position in the 1980s was more to do with the number of nations competing globally at the time than their specific performances. Since they have started competing with a degree of regularity on the continental scene, Bhutan have always hovered at or near the bottom of the ratings. Their high point in the 21st century of 218 was as a result of their performance at the 2008 SAFF Championship.

Competitive record[edit]

FIFA World Cup[edit]

Bhutan attempted to qualify for the FIFA World Cup for the first time in 2015. Drawn against Sri Lanka, they produced a shock result over the two legs of the first round to progress to the next round. They were drawn in group C of the second round, but were unable to progress to the next stage.

FIFA World Cup FIFA World Cup qualification record
Hosts / Year Pld W D* L GS GA Pld W D* L GF GA
Uruguay 1930 to Brazil 2014 Did not enter Did not enter
Russia 2018 Did not qualify 10 2 0 8 8 53
Qatar 2022 To be determined To be determined
Total 0 0 0 0 0 0 10 2 0 8 8 53

AFC Asian Cup[edit]

Prior to 2015, Bhutan had only attempted to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup on two occasions, both of which ended unsuccessfully. In their first attempt, they lost all of their matches, including a then world record 20–0 defeat to Kuwait. They were marginally more successful in the next iteration. Qualifying was divided into two stages. Bhutan hosted their group in the Preliminary stage, finishing in first place after a 0–0 draw with Mongolia and a 6–0 victory over Guam, a result that is still a record win for the nation. However, progressing to the second stage, they lost all six of their games and failed to progress to the competition proper.

AFC Asian Cup AFC Asian Cup qualification record
Hosts / Year Pld W D* L GS GA Pld W D* L GF GA
Hong Kong 1956 to United Arab Emirates 1996 Did not enter Did not enter
Lebanon 2000 Did not qualify 4 0 0 4 2 42
China 2004 Did not qualify 8 1 1 6 6 26
Indonesia Malaysia Thailand Vietnam 2007
to Australia 2015
Did not enter Did not enter
United Arab Emirates 2019* To be determined 10 2 0 8 8 53
Total 0 0 0 0 0 0 22 3 1 18 16 121

*: 2019 qualification campaign also includes qualifying matches from the Asian section of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification as in 2014, a proposal to merge the preliminary qualification rounds of the FIFA World Cup with those of the AFC Asian Cup was ratified by the AFC Competitions Committee. The new qualification structure will take place in three stages, with the first two merging with the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification.[93]

AFC Challenge Cup[edit]

Bhutan have a dismal record in the AFC Challenge Cup, not only have they never qualified for the competition, but they have only managed a single draw, 1–1 against Brunei during the 2008 qualifying campaign. In addition, this is the only match in which they have ever managed to score. The AFC Challenge Cup has been discontinued by the AFC, with all nations now entering qualifying for the AFC Cup due to the expansion of the Asian Cup to the 24-nation format from the 16-nation one after the 2015 edition.[94][95]

AFC Challenge Cup AFC Challenge Cup qualification record
Hosts / Year Result Pld W D* L GS GA Pld W D* L GF GA
Bangladesh 2006 Group 3 0 1 2 0 3 No qualification stage
India 2008 Did not qualify 3 0 1 2 1 6
Sri Lanka 2010 Did not qualify 3 0 0 3 0 13
Nepal 2012 Did not qualify 2 0 0 2 0 5
Maldives 2014 Did not enter Did not enter
Total 3 0 1 2 0 3 8 0 1 7 1 24

South Asian Football Federation Cup[edit]

Bhutan have an almost equally poor record in the South Asian Football Federation Cup. Only once have they managed to make it out of the group stage of the competition, with this being the only time they have managed to achieve any form of positive result.

South Asian Football Federation Cup
Hosts / Year Result Pld W D* L GS GA
Pakistan 1993 to India 1999 Did not enter
Bangladesh 2003 Group stage 3 0 0 3 0 11
Pakistan 2005 Group stage 3 0 0 3 1 9
Maldives Sri Lanka 2008 Semi-finals 4 1 1 2 5 6
Bangladesh 2009 Group stage 3 0 0 3 0 17
India 2011 Group stage 3 0 0 3 0 16
Nepal 2013 Group stage 3 0 0 3 4 16
India 2015 Group Stage 3 0 0 3 1 9
Total 22 1 1 20 7 84

South Asian Games[edit]

Early in their competitive history, Bhutan's sole participation in international football was their attendance at the South Asian Games. Taking part in the first three editions of the games, they failed to win a single game, losing all their matches and failing to score a goal until their final group game in 1987 against Nepal.[96] Following this edition they did not enter a team again and from 2004 the national team has been ineligible as the tournament was changed to an under-23 competition.[97]

South Asian Games
Hosts / Year Result Pld W D* L GS GA
Nepal 1984 Fourth** 3 0 0 3 0 8
Bangladesh 1985 Group Stage 2 0 0 2 0 4
India 1987 Group Stage 2 0 0 2 2 9
Pakistan 1989 to India 1995 Did not enter
Pakistan 2004 to India 2016 Not eligible
Total 7 0 0 7 2 21

**It is unclear from the sources provided whether there was a third place playoff or whether the Maldives were awarded the bronze medal on the strength of their group performance alone, either way Bhutan finished in fourth and last place.[98]

ANFA Cup[edit]

The ANFA Cup refers to a series of invitational association football knockout tournaments organised by the All Nepal Football Association.[99] A national team has represented Bhutan at a number of editions of this tournament. Some of the matches have been against other national teams with the remainder against clubs or other representative teams. Again they have struggled to achieve any real success, their only positive results coming in 1986 in non-international matches against teams representing the Hong Kong Gurkhas and Nepal Youth respectively.[100]

ANFA Cup
Hosts / Year Pld W D* L GS GA
Nepal 1980 to 1981 Did not compete
Nepal 1982 2 0 0 2 2 6
Nepal 1983 to 1985 Did not compete
Nepal 1986 4 0 2 2 - -
Nepal 1987 to 1989 Did not compete
Nepal 2000 2 0 0 2 0 7
Nepal 2009, 2010, 2014 Did not compete
Total 8 0 2 6 - -

Source: RSSSF.

*Denotes draws includes knockout matches decided on penalty kicks. Red border indicates that the tournament was hosted on home soil. Gold, silver, bronze backgrounds indicates 1st, 2nd and 3rd finishes respectively. Bold text indicates best finish in tournament.

International opponents[edit]

Last match updated:  Maldives on 29 March 2016.
Opponent Played Won Drawn Lost For Against Diff Win % Loss %
 Afghanistan 6 1 0 5 2 22 −20 17% 83%
 Bangladesh 8 0 1 7 2 22 −20 0% 88%
 Brunei 2 0 2 0 1 1 0 0% 0%
 Cambodia 1 0 0 1 0 2 −2 0% 0%
 China PR 2 0 0 2 0 18 −18 0% 100%
 Guam 1 1 0 0 6 0 +6 100% 0%
 Hong Kong 2 0 0 2 0 8 −8 0% 100%
 India 5 0 0 5 1 16 −15 0% 100%
 Indonesia 2 0 0 2 0 4 −4 0% 100%
 Kuwait 1 0 0 1 0 20 −20 0% 100%
 Maldives 7 0 0 7 8 31 −23 0% 100%
 Mongolia 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0% 0%
 Montserrat 1 1 0 0 4 0 +4 100% 0%
   Nepal 13 0 0 13 6 41 −35 0% 100%
 Pakistan 2 0 0 2 1 9 −8 0% 100%
 Philippines 2 0 0 2 0 4 −4 0% 100%
 Qatar 2 0 0 2 0 18 −18 0% 100%
 Saudi Arabia 2 0 0 2 0 10 −10 0% 100%
 Sri Lanka 7 2 0 5 5 18 −13 29% 71%
 Tajikistan 1 0 0 1 1 3 −2 0% 100%
 Thailand 1 0 0 1 0 5 −5 0% 100%
 Turkmenistan 2 0 0 2 0 15 −15 0% 100%
 Yemen 3 0 0 3 2 23 −21 0% 100%
Official Total 74 5 4 65 39 290 -251 7% 88%
 Bangladesh 2 0 0 2 0 6 −21 0% 100%
Thailand Buriram United 2 0 0 2 0 15 −15 0% 100%
China Guangzhou Football Team 1 0 0 1 1 6 −5 0% 100%
Hong Kong Hong Kong Gurkhas 1 0 1 0 ? ? ? 0% 0%
China Kunming Army Team 1 0 0 1 1 3 −2 0% 100%
Nepal Nepal Red 1 0 0 1 0 1 −1 0% 100%
Nepal Nepal Youth 1 0 1 0 ? ? ? 0% 0%
South Korea Soongsil University 1 0 0 1 0 6 −6 0% 100%
 Tibet 2 1 1 0 5 4 +1 50% 0%
Unofficial Total* 12 1 3 8 7 41 -34 8% 67%
Overall Total* 86 6 7 73 46 331 -285 7% 85%
Key
>50% Wins
50% Wins
<50% Wins

NB: Unofficial matches includes ANFA Cup matches against teams other than the official Nepal national team, four friendly matches against Tibet and Bangladesh and two charity matches against Buriram United.
*: Includes unofficial matches in the 1986 ANFA Cup against Hong Kong Gurkhas and Nepal Youth which sources indicate were drawn but for which no score is available. The results are included here statistically as 0–0 for the purpose of completeness.

Coaches[edit]

Statistics correct as of 30 March 2016
Manager Dates P W D L Win % Competitions
South Korea Byung-chan, KangKang Byung-chan 2000–2002 5 0 0 5 00.0 2000 AFC Cup Qualifying
South Korea Kee-heung, YooYoo Kee-heung 2002 0 0 0 0 !
Netherlands Schans, ArieArie Schans 2002–2003 2 1 0 1 50.0 The Other Final
Netherlands Walk, HenkHenk Walk 2003 4 0 0 4 00.0 2003 SAFF Gold Cup
Bhutan Basnet, KhareKhare Basnet 2003–2008 23 3 5 15 13.0 2004 AFC Cup Qualifying,
2005 SAFF Gold Cup,
2006 AFC Challenge Cup
Japan Gyotoku, KojiKoji Gyotoku 2008–2010 14 1 2 11 07.1 2008 AFC Challenge Cup Qualifying,
2008 SAFF Championship,
2009 SAFF Championship,
2010 AFC Challenge Cup Qualifying
Japan Matsuyama, HiroakiHiroaki Matsuyama 2010–2012 7 0 0 7 00.0 2012 AFC Challenge Cup Qualifying,
2011 SAFF Championship
Japan Ohara, KazunoriKazunori Ohara 2012–14 4 0 0 4 00.0 2013 SAFF Championship
Bhutan Nima, ChokeyChokey Nima 20151 2 2 0 0 100.00 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying
Japan Tsukitate, NorioNorio Tsukitate 2015 4 0 0 4 00.0 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying
Bhutan Dorji, PemaPema Dorji 20151 8 0 0 8 00.0 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying

Key: P – games played, W – games won, D – games drawn; L – games lost, % – win percentage, 1 Coached in an interim capacity.

See also[edit]

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