Another Page in Bhutan’s Annals

Another Page in Bhutan’s Annals

On June 22, 2023, thousands of Bhutanese were glued to the television as Bhutan took on Bangladesh in the finals of the Five Nations Championship Basketball Tournament, held in the Maldives. Having gone through the semi-finals with Nepal in extraordinary circumstances, a buzzer 3 pointer shot, the expectations from Team Bhutan were divided. But pessimists were proved wrong. When the final whistle blew, the Dragon Boys had triumphed. They made history for themselves and most importantly for Bhutan as they became the first team to win in a final of a game that Bhutan has participated at such a level.

People had gathered at the Clock Tower, Thimphu to watch the game on the big screen. And there were people from all walks of life. Tandin, from Chamgang, was seated in a corner, with folded hands. Almost all through the game, his lips were constantly moving. He was praying for his team, Bhutan’s team. “We do not get opportunities like this. We have to do it and I think that we can as the boys are really working hard,” he said.

On another side was an employee of one of the workshops in Olokha, Thimphu. First quarter into the game and he was nervous. “We are doing good. But I am worried about the stamina of our boys and the number of faults committed,” he said, adding that basket ball is a very tiring game. “And we are playing in a place which our prayers are not used to,” he said.

Sonam Dorji, from Olakha, a basketball player himself said it is an incredible display by the Bhutanese team. “They look determined and if they play like they are doing now, Bhutan will make history,” he said. Sonam added that the Bhutanese coach has studied and analyzed Bangladesh’s strengths and weaknesses. “Our boys are simply not giving them any opportunity.” By then the first half ended and Bhutan led by 10 points (five baskets). Sonam grinned! “Do you want to bet? I am going for Bhutan.” He was speaking to his friend.

But the excitement was not confined to Thimphu. Norbu, from Monggar said he “gulped one bottle of beer without stopping after the first half.” “And in the third quarter, we were at one time 17 points ahead. I thought the game was settled, but I got goose pimples in the last quarter,” he says. “I went outside the house. I couldn’t watch the last quarter and my son came running to me saying, Bhutan won,” he says, adding he was embarrassed in front of his kids. “Tears just fell down. It was involuntary.”

Ugyen Tshering, a teacher from Trashigang said his room was filled with people, who had never played or watched a basketball match. “But all of them understood how important the game was. They knew that a new chapter in Bhutan’s history was about to be written. And when we finally won, most of them had tears of joy.”

A private employee, who did not want to be named said that it was a perfect match. They worked very hard and at the end of the game, captain Rinchen was telling a local media that they worked hard.

“They entered the court determined to win. They listened to whatever the coach had to say during the time outs taken. They showed that height may matter, but there is more to it. We require the Ngar and our boys did it. All are very proud of what they have achieved,” he said. “If there was something missing, it was you all (media),” he added, saying he just cannot understand what the “Bhutanese media” was doing. “Thanks to Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS) and the Basketball Federation, we could watch the match live. But when our National team had made history by reaching the finals and was just one step from changing that history too, shouldn’t our media be there,” he questioned.

While underlining that he understands the financial issues involved, he said it is also the responsibility of the government. “I do not think our foreign reserves will deplete completely, if we send a team from BBS and few from the print media. It is really disheartening,” he said.

Meanwhile, the team will be arriving at Paro Airport in the evening today (June 24, 2023). “They deserve a good reception. It need not necessarily be grand. We owe these boys,” he added.

Meanwhile, at the Special Olympics in Berlin, Nima Yoezer won his first Olympic Gold in the men’s Shot Put Level B, and Dechen Peldon won a Silver medal in the women’s Level B too!

They are both students at Draktsho Vocational Training Centre for Special Children & Youth. 6500 athletes from 176 countries are participating at the Special Olympics this year!

Additionally, the Prime Ministers Office (PMO) in its social media platform congratulated the winners. “Enjoyed the game and rejoicing our boys’ win at the Five Nations Championship 2023 in Maldives. Well done! Also delighted with the day’s good news as our athlete Nima Yoezer from Draktsho bags a gold in shot-put at the ongoing Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023. Best wishes to all and safe trip home,” the Facebook message read.

Ugyen Tenzin from Thimphu