• Alasdair Howorth

Paro United FC take on Druk Stars FC in a fight for survival in the Bhutan Premier League

Kick Off: Sat 7 November 2020, 11 AM GMT

Venue: Changlimithang Stadium, Thimphu, Bhutan

Video Link: https://mycujoo.tv/en/competition/bhutan-premier-league/season/2020?id=ckghw3b29yx4z0g8dh541w3ck&play=true&tvId=247


With both sides points adrift from safety, and just a few games left in the season, both Paro United and Druk Stars head into the clash knowing anything less than a win effectively seals their relegation from the Premier League.

Photo courtesy of the Paro United FC Facebook page.

In one of the most closed off and isolated countries in the world, sits a fascinating and truly unique league in the shape of the Bhutan Premier League . Due to the remarkable landscape, sitting deep inside the east of the Himalayas, travel (both externally and internally) has been extremely limited in the Kingdom of Bhutan until recently. As a result, the Premier League was formed as the first national league of Bhutan only in 2012. With no precedent, the league has evolved over the last eight years and was only formed into its current structure in 2019.

The three tiers of Bhutanese football were remodelled in order to give sides outside of the capital, Thimphu, an equal footing with sides in the capital. The third tier of Bhutanese football is comprised of the Dzongkhag League, which comprises regional leagues that feed three teams a season into the Bhutan Super League. The Bhutan Super League consists of eight teams and is the second tier of Bhutanese football. The league is played out in a single round robin format, preceding a play off between the top 4 teams. The entire season is played out early in the calendar year (this season it concluded in March). Following the conclusion of the Super League season, the top four teams at least (5th and 6th have also been promoted in the past due to Premier League sides withdrawing from the league) are promoted into in the Premier League.

The Premier League consists of those 5 teams in addition to the teams that came in the top 5 positions the season before. This means that the Bhutan Premier League relegates half of its teams, and the Bhutan Super League consists entirely of teams promoted from the Dzongkhag League and teams relegated from the Premier League. The season is then played out in the remainder of the calendar year with teams all playing each other twice. The champion qualifies for the AFC Champions League and the bottom 4 sides are relegated.

This season due to lack of sponsorship deals, made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic which forced the Premier League to a delayed and disrupted start, two sides, Druk United and BFF Academy U-19 were forced to withdraw from the competition leaving the division with only eight sides this season.

Current League Table. Image courtesy of Paro United FC Facebook page.

With the bottom four sides being relegated, both Paro United and Druk Stars both effectively need to win all their remaining matches in order to secure a place for next season. For Druk Stars, in particular, the path to avoid relegation is a difficult one.

Two weeks ago their club owner and head coach Kota Namgay was found guilty of match-fixing and banned for life from football in Bhutan. While the club was initially disqualified and potentially may be kicked out of the league system at the end of the season (due to the fact that Namgay owns the club in addition to fomally being its head coach), their performances have unsurprisingly improved since Namgay's departure. They picked up their solitary win of the season against Ugyen Academy and then narrowly lost to Tensung.

Paro United come into this game after two very narrow defeats to rivals Paro FC and league leaders Thimphu City. Both sides will fancy themselves to get the win in the match being played in the national stadium in Thimphu. Both of these sides came up together from the Super League in March where United knocked out Druk Stars in the semi-finals, and both of them have to win this game if they do not want to repeat that feat next season.


Disclaimer- There was very little information on the league in Bhutan, the two club sides, and generally about football that I could find so I may be incorrect about certain details.

The only active social media account I could find for either team was the the Paro United Facebook page.

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