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A look at football in Bhutan
World Cup 2002: The other final - Bhutan met Montserrat

Head bent against the wind, Wangay Dorji looks like a man with a mission. He hurtles through the ground wrestling the ball from his teammates as if the showdown was real. Thimphu XI players practice four hours a day; (right) Mr. Arie Schans: "Some have fantastic attacking skills"

Bhutan prepares to meet Montserrat

The intensity is understandable. Wangay is the captain of Bhutan's football team, Thimphu XI, and for the last many weeks he has been practicing hard to take his team to victory against Montserrat's national football team in the upcoming "other final" in Thimphu. Taking on teams from Thailand, Nepal, and some of the best clubs in India last year, and in recent months South Korea and Nepal again, the general feeling is that enough exposures and experiences have been gained to play in this FIFA authorized international friendly. Bhutan's new national coach Mr. Arie Schans from Holland has coached both professional and amateurs football teams for 31 years back home including a five-year stint in Japan and is one of the teachers at the Royal Dutch Soccer Association. Under his watchful eyes, Thimphu XI players are grilled four hours daily starting from 9:30 in the morning, while the whole of Thimphu is glued to TV watching the World Cup.

On June 30 Thimphu XI will take on Montserrat here at the capital's Changlimithang ground, a few hours before the World Cup final at Yokohama, Japan. Montserrat is a small Caribbean island on the other side of the globe with a population of 4,000. Bhutan and Montserrat are the most recent members of the FIFA and the two lowest ranked teams in the world: Montserrat is last at 203 and Bhutan at 202. Football fans are excited about the whole thing and "very much" looking forward to the match. But whatever the outcome of the match, one thing will be certain: that football is more about "spirit" than about the best teams and the best players in the world.


Bhutan wins 'the other final'
The "other final", between an island and a mountain, offered the Thimphu home crowd a taste of the "spirit of football", according to organisers and spectors who packed the Changlimithang stadium.

The third goal in the second-half

The standard was as good as it could get, considering that the teams rank 202 and 203 on FIFA's list. But the match itself was overwhelmed by the spirit of festivity as thousand of students, the business community, and government officials got caught up in the spirit of the event. As the players made their way onto the pitch the Bhutanese crowd, usually known to favour visiting teams, broke out into 'Hot Hot Hot' to the surprise of the Montserrat team.

A Montserrat attack against Druk XI within the first two minutes was stopped by the Druk XI goal keeper.... only just. A slightly unnerved Bhutanese crowd was relieved when the team captain, Wangyel Dorji, headed a corner kick into the post five minutes into the match. It was not an impressive goal but gave the Bhutanese the lead and a much-needed encouragement. Druk XI mounted attack after attack but lacked finish, kicking the ball far above the post.

At half time Druk XI coach Arie Schans kept the team under control and reminded them that they needed to settle down, organize themselves and choose their time to attack. 20 minutes into the second half Wangyel took a free kick to score the second goal awarded by English FA referee Steve Bennet . Montserrat launched two or three attacks on the Bhutanese goal but lacked coordination and a striker.

Dinesh Chetteri Bhutan's veteran striker scored an easy third goal 10 minutes after his captain, drawing another roar from the home crowd. With three goals down and time running out the Montserrat team was visibly tired as the Bhutanese captain completed his hat trick with the fourth goal in the final minutes.

Speaking about their victory team captain, Wangyel Dorji, of Druk XI said, "It feels great. After we scored the first goal our confidence grew and we tried to make as many chances to score again, eventually leading to the next three during the match. Monsterrat played well but the altitude seemed to be their weakness."

Montserrat captain, Charles Thompson, said: "It was a good game... very competitive. We played really hard and we accept defeat. I think we played to the spirit of FIFA and what football is about." "The altitude was a big factor and the conditions we are unaccustomed to, we'd like the chance for Druk XI to come to our place and play there. Food poisoning on our way in was also a blow when nine of our players were ill mid-week." In another hour the two teams will sit together not as competitive players but as friends and fans to watch an almost anti climatic world cup final between Germany and Brazil.

Contributed byKuensel, Bhutan's National Newspaper 2002

Bhutan National Football League, World Cup
Thimphu Changlimithang stadium

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