The Bhutan Football Federation (BFF) has been involved with the development and popularization of football in Bhutan since the early 1980’s only. As our nation is a developing nation, the development was hampered in the beginning due to the lack of resources – both financial and human, proper plans and a long term vision.
It was only in the year 2000 when BFF joined FIFA as a member that financial assistance for football as a sport was received. This assistance formally institutionalized the Bhutan Football Federation and provided a stable foundation for the systematic promotion of football in Bhutan.
Initially, the emphasis and effort went into training a national team so that Bhutan could be represented in external competitions. However, it was quickly realized that training players at that level did not address the issue of replacement of players over a period of time as there was no youth program in place.
While many schools with boarding facilities in Bhutan had football teams players did not receive any formal training.
Nonetheless, these schools provided a small pool of players albeit with raw talent out of which the national team was formed. With the phasing out of most boarding schools in Bhutan this small pool of players dwindled. The BFF realizing this shifted its focus to training youth to create a larger pool of players for the future.
The generous assistance of the FIFA Goal Project helped establish a training Center in the capital Thimphu in 2005.
The youth development plan began in the year 2005 immediately after the Training Center was established in Changjiji, Thimphu. Even though every year there were youth football camps held for the training and selection of young players for the national teams, there was no proper and structured training for these players.
The players were trained for a month before the competitions and released immediately after the competitions. Therefore, players were usually selected according to their performance during the selection period and trained with coaches for about a month and sometimes less.
In 2006 after the establishment of the Training Center through the FIFA Goal Project one, a selection process was carried out during the winter vacation for the students and a total of twenty-five U-13 boys were selected.
In 2007 a further 25 students of U-14 boys were selected for the training Centre. The boys were provided with not only the training but even education to schools in the capital. Further equipment was also provided for the training. This was the start of the youth development program. Final group boys were selected and trained at the centre to represent the country for future competitions. With exposure to proper techniques, skills and overall training the Centre has played a crucial role in developing the national team.
Despite this it was realized that limited financial resources meant that the training was given to only a selected few. Given the position of football in a developing economy/nation like Bhutan many players dropped out of training while others went on for further studies as football itself offers limited scope as an occupation. The pool of trained players was constantly being drained. In 2016 we have increased the number of teams in the academy.
The results of a survey carried out by the Bhutan Olympic Committee in 2010, indicated that the most popular sport around the country among the youth was football. It was also found out that most of the national team was made up of players living in and around Thimphu with few players from the other districts. This is perhaps because most of the qualified coaches are found mainly in Thimphu.
Within the overall goal to popularize and make football accessible to all, the BFF strongly feels the need to increase the base of players so that more choice of players and better quality of players could be selected, given proper training and proper selection procedure followed thereafter with the coaches going to the districts. This led to the introduction of the Grassroots Program and the Youth Development policy and plan.