On 23 April 2009 a delegation from the Bhutanese Football Association, led by President Dasho Ugyen Dorji, arrived at the Home of FIFA in Zurich for discussions with FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter and FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke. Following the meeting, Dorji took time out for an exclusive interview with FIFA.com.
FIFA.com: Mr Dorji, what brings you to the Home of FIFA today?
President Dasho Ugyen Dorji: I wanted to meet President Blatter personally so that we could exchange some ideas. We had a very constructive and fruitful discussion.
How popular is football in Bhutan?
The people of Bhutan are hugely passionate about football and I have no doubt that it's the most popular sport. We already have around 5,000 registered footballers and the number is increasing all the time. The leagues are constantly growing too - at the moment we have eight teams in the top division, with 15 in the second and third divisions respectively.
Bhutan has been an official FIFA member association since 2000. How important was this for the development of football in the country?
Things have improved incredibly since we became a member of FIFA. Thanks to the Goal Project, we've been able to modernise and expand our training facilities - and we're looking to improve them further still. It really has been an enormous help.
What is the next step for Bhutanese football?
First and foremost we want to improve our facilities and we are hoping to build some artificial grass pitches. Additionally, we need more coaches, as well as education and training programs, as we are putting a strong emphasis on working with youngsters and promoting grassroots football. It's going to be a lengthy process, but if we take it one step at a time and continue to build on the progress we have made so far, then there will be a noticeable improvement in the quality of our national team.
What are your goals for the next few years?
Right now we need to set ourselves some short-term goals and take it one step at a time. In the long run, we would like to establish ourselves as one of the top sides in the region. Of course one day we would like to be up there with the best teams in Asia, but that is going to take some doing as the level of football in Asia is very high, particularly the top teams, so we've still got a long way to go.
How important is it for the national team to pick up match practice and pit themselves against other international sides?
It's hugely important. At the moment our facilities are somewhat lacking, so it's a fantastic experience for us to play in more developed countries with big stadiums, floodlights and other top facilities which we simply don't have in Bhutan.