…𝑭𝒐𝒐𝒕𝒃𝒂𝒍𝒍 𝒑𝒍𝒂𝒚𝒔 𝒂 𝒔𝒊𝒈𝒏𝒊𝒇𝒊𝒄𝒂𝒏𝒕 𝒓𝒐𝒍𝒆 𝒊𝒏 𝒐𝒖𝒓 𝒄𝒐-𝒄𝒖𝒓𝒓𝒊𝒄𝒖𝒍𝒂𝒓 𝒂𝒄𝒕𝒊𝒗𝒊𝒕𝒊𝒆𝒔, 𝒆𝒏𝒔𝒖𝒓𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒂 𝒘𝒆𝒍𝒍-𝒓𝒐𝒖𝒏𝒅𝒆𝒅 𝒆𝒅𝒖𝒄𝒂𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏𝒂𝒍 𝒆𝒙𝒑𝒆𝒓𝒊𝒆𝒏𝒄𝒆.
By Susmika Subba
The Bhutan Football Federation Academy, located in Changjiji within the Thimphu Thromde region, is supported by the Bhutan Football Federation (BFF). The BFF was founded in 1983 under the Bhutan Olympic Committee and later joined FIFA in 2000 and the Asian Football Confederation in 1993. On May 30, 2023, His Royal Highness Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck and BFF President Ugyen Tshechup officially opened the Bhutan Football Academy.
The Bhutan Football Academy was founded to offer young individuals a unique platform to pursue their passion for both football and academics. This endeavor ensures that budding footballers can dedicate equal attention to their love for the game while excelling in their studies. To assure complete guidance towards the children, the young footballers are given boarding facilities.
The Academy is divided into two divisions. Rudra Chhetri, the principal, leads the academic division, which includes teaching and non-teaching staff. A Technical Director leads the technical division, which includes coaches. The staff and coaches cater to the academic and technical requirements of the learners.
This unique platform for sports enthusiasts is a first in the country. The Academy, the first of its kind here, began in February 2022 and currently has students from Classes VII to XI. Next year, they will introduce Class XII with all three streams.
The academy adheres to the curriculum established by the Department of Curriculum and Professional Division within the Ministry of Education and Skill Development, the Academy ensures a balanced schedule.
The Principal said, “Our academy day follows a consistent schedule, commencing at 8 am and concluding at 2:00 pm. In the afternoon, from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm, our technical team assumes responsibility for physical development, concentrating on honing specific skills and providing conceptual training in the sport of football exclusively. Football plays a significant role in our co-curricular activities, ensuring a well-rounded educational experience.”
The Academy offers excellent hostel accommodations, follows dietary guidelines, provides a fully equipped gym, and employs a physiotherapist for student well-being. It boasts a top-notch artificial turf ground and a mini pitch for training, benefitting students and national coaches, referees, and players.
Maintaining harmony between academic sessions and football training is a priority for the Academy. The curriculum is thoughtfully structured to ensure that no Department of Curriculum and Professional Division classes or periods are compromised. The school day now starts at 8 am and concludes at 2 pm, allowing students a generous one-hour break to engage in their second session of football training, seamlessly balancing academics and sports.
In the process of selecting football players, the BFF’s technical team plays a crucial role by overseeing the selection of candidates from 20 dzongkhags. This selection program takes place in Gelephu during the winter vacation, drawing students with a passion and talent for football. The transparent selection system, guided by foreign coaches, identifies the most suitable candidates based on predefined criteria.
To nurture football’s growth and talent in Bhutan, a system with five regional managers has been put in place. They organize tournaments in schools across the dzongkhags, identifying and recommending potential Academy players based on tournament performance. The Academy also operates four regional training centers, promoting equal opportunities for boys and girls. The BFF actively organizes numerous tournaments to promote football development throughout the country.
Teachers at the Academy stress that handling academic responsibilities is not a major hurdle. Kelzang Wangmo, a teacher, highlights that their main goal is to improve students’ academic performance.
Pema Zangpo, the school captain, believes that blending academic sessions with football training is quite beneficial. According to Zangpo, this approach allows students to focus entirely on football, aiding in their physical development without being diverted by other extracurricular activities.
Students at the Bhutan Academy do a good job of handling their schoolwork along with their football training and matches. The schedules are carefully planned to make room for both, and as Tshering Dorji, a student, explains, they split their time evenly, dedicating 50% to studying and 50% to football.
The Academy aspires to nurture talent, producing national players, coaches, and referees, while actively participating in international matches. It also seeks opportunities for its students to be scouted by international clubs and aims to establish itself as a world-class institution that can attract international talent.
The Bhutan Football Academy envisions captivating football enthusiasts not only within the nation but also worldwide, setting an exemplary standard for combining education and sports.