This weekend sees the Bhutan Premier League finally return after 10 months away. Whilst in that time tournaments and cup competitions have been held, it is great to see the league back in action, in what should be a highly entertaining season.
The season kicks off this Saturday 13th August with the opening game of Thimphu City v Royal Thimphu College at the Changlimithang Stadium. From the announced timetable thus far, games are scheduled to be played nearly every day, with the occasional days' break, after two or three fixtures.
The league operates in a double round-robin format, where each team plays each other twice, once at home and once away. The winner of the league will obtain a Preliminary round 1 place in the AFC Cup
This 2022 season will operate from August until December
The Bhutan Premier League is the top flight division in the country. The second division is known as the Bhutan Premier League 2022 Qualifiers, which is essentially more of a tournament as opposed to a definitive league.
Eleven teams were competing for the six spots in this season's BPL, with Coronation Cup Champion's - Druk Lhayul FC, 2021 BPL Champion - Paro FC, Thimphu City FC and Transport United FC had already booked their places in the league.
The successful clubs from the qualifiers consisted of: Bhutan Football Federation (BFF) Academy, Paro Rinpung, Royal Thimphu College (RTC), FC Takin, Tensung FC and Ugyen Academy.
The regional teams still maintain their own stadiums, so now there are actual home and away games while the Thimphu-based teams continue to play their games there.
2021 Season Recap
The 2021 season ended in exciting fashion, with Paro FC (in 1st) playing the final day of the season to Thimphu City (in 2nd). Paro headed into the fixture on 44 points, whilst Thimphu were on 42. Thimphu had to win to be crowned champions, whereas a draw would have been enough for Paro.
A draw they did. After 90 minutes of end to end actions, missed opportunities, high energy and physical battles, the match ended 1-1, being enough to see Paro win the 2021 season by one point.
It was entertaining and interesting battle for the title throughout the season, with Paro, Thimphu and Transport United all being amongst the favourites for silverware.
Whereas the bottom three sides in Paro Rinpung, Gelephu and Gomo FC must have been desperate for the season to finish, given all three finished exactly on 7 points, with 2 wins, 1 draw and 15 losses. Rinpung particularly have a tough time with their 97 goals conceded in 18 games.
Woochu Sports Arena
Home to: Paro FC
Changjiji Football Academy
Home to: BFF Academy
Lekeythang Football Field
Home to: Ugyen Academy
Bhutan Football Federation Academy
The BFF Academy team is a side comprised of U20 players. The BFF made quick use of the resources by opening the nation's first-ever football school in April, allowing young players to train and play while still attending school on-site. The idea is to help give players competitive experience by playing in the top division and potentially be future stars for the national team.
The Academy team finished 3rd in qualifiers to earn a place in this seasons Bhutan Premier League, winning 8 and losing 2, whilst scoring 34 and only conceding 4 across 10 fixtures.
Druk Lhayul FC
Established two years ago, Druk Lhayul are a new side to the Bhutan Premier League and competed in the division for the first time last season. Lhayul finished in a respectable 5th place out of 10 in the league, winning 10, drawing 3 and losing 5, whilst scoring 34 and conceding 19.
They secured an automatic spot in this seasons Bhutan Premier League through winning the Coronation Cup, meaning they were not required like other sides to compete in the Qualifiers.
Only founded four years ago, Paro FC are a team making waves in a short period of time. They participated in the 2018 Bhutan National League and finished runners-up just behind winners, Transport United. Just a year later, they then participated in the inaugural Samtse Championship in 2019 and advanced to the semi-finals, whilst they achieved their first piece of silverware by winning the Bhutan Premier League in 2019.
Paro where an emphatic team last season, winning the BPL title on the final day of the season. They finished 1st on 45 points, winning 14, drawing 3 and losing 1, with 60 goals scored and just 11 conceded. Not only did finishing in 1st secure the premier league title, but it also meant that Paro did qualify for the AFC Cup preliminary round 1.
Paro Rinpung FC
Another club which was only formed a few years ago, Paro Rinpung are side which competed in the Bhutan Premier League for the first time last season. Unfortunately for them, it was a season to forget, finishing last in a 10 team league, winning 2, drawing 1 and losing 15 games. Undeniably, it was their defense which was the major weak point for the side, as the conceded an outstanding 97 goals in just 18 matches.
Despite this poor showing in their inaugural season, Rinpung have bounced back and secured a 6th place finish the BPL Qualifiers, meaning they were the last team to earn a spot back in the top division. During the qualifiers Rinpung won 4, drew 2 and lost 4, whilst scoring 22 and conceding 22. Whilst perhaps they haven't quite fixed their defensive problems, they are at least doing things well at the other side of the pitch.
Royal Thimphu College
A side which has recently come to the for, after representing the private Royal Thimphu College. RTC are a team which is a composed of young players gaining an education at institution, whilst also being able to play football. It's parent institution is that of the Royal University of Bhutan.
This is the teams first time competing in the top division of Bhutanese football and managed to obtain their place in the BPL through finishing first in the league qualifiers. Finishing on 28 points, winning nine and drawing 1 in their 10 fixtures, whilst scoring 45 and only conceding 8.
2016 saw the foundation of FC Takin by Mindu Chen Chen Dorji.
The side started off by plying their trade in the District leagues and given the fact that they reached the finals twice and semi-finals three times in the district league, they were accepted to take part in the Bhutan Premier League qualifiers.
They made good on their ambitions and finished 4th in the Qualifiers to finally secure a place in the top flight of Bhutanese football. During their qualifying run, they won seven and lost three games, scoring 40 and conceding 18.
Founded in 2016, Tensung FC are yet to gain a piece of silverware and are a side which have struggled to find consistency. Last season they finished 7th out of 10 in Bhutan Premier League, meaning they had to battle it out the BPL Qualifiers this summer to earn their place back in the top division of Bhutanese Football.
In the qualifiers, Tensung finished in 5th place, winning five, drawing two and losing three, in which they scored 25 goals and conceded 9.
Established in 2012, Thimphu City were invited to play in the first Bhutan National League. The club, formerly Zimdra FC, was re-established as Thimphu City FC in 2012 and again qualified for the 2013 Bhutan National League, coming second to eventual champion Yeedzin. In 2016, they won the Thimphu League and the inaugural National League championship. They followed this up by winning Bhutan Premier League in 2020.
The club narrowly missed out on making it two consecutive league title wins, but were pipped to the post by Paro FC on the final day of the 2021 BPL season. A game they had to win, but unfortunately ended in a 1-1 draw. They won 13, drew 4 and lost 1 in a season where they were absolutely prolific in front of goal, scoring 78 goals in 18 games and just conceding 17. Alongside Paro FC and Transport United, they will be amongst the favourites to win the league this season.
The club was established in 2001, and Changlimithang Stadium is where they play. Five national championships have been won by Transport United, who dominated Bhutanese football for the most of the first decade of the twenty-first century. Winning the then known A-Division/Thimphu League in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007. The team qualified for the AFC Cup for the first time in 2017 after going undefeated for the full season and winning the championship. They followed this up with another league title the following year in 2018.
For the 2021 season, Transport United finished in 3rd place out of 10, only missing out on the league title by 5 points. Across the year, they won 13, drew 2 and lost 3, scoring 65 times and only conceding 16.
Founded 20 years ago in 2002, Ugyen Academy are a football team based in Punakha. They participated in the 2014 AFC President's Cup for Bhutan and won the Bhutan National League championship in 2013. Despite being one of the oldest clubs in Bhutanese football, they have just recently become a competitive team.
Last season Ugyen finished 6th out of 10 with 25 points. Winning 8, drawing 1 and losing 9. They had 0 GD, scoring 27 and conceding 27.
How to watch
For the last few years, the Bhutan Premier League has been available to watch online and for free on the ElevenSports app and website. That will continue for this BPL 2022 season: Bhutan Premier League 2022 | ELEVEN (elevensports.com)