The Mini Dragon League, a football league for children under 12, is helping develop young players and promote the beautiful game. The league, which started in 2020 is unique in its setup as it allows both boys and girls to take the field together. This the organisers and young football enthusiasts say is helping girl footballers develop their game.
What started as a platform to engage children in football during their winter vacations, now focuses on encouraging girls’ participation in football.
The Mini Dragon League is now organised in four districts; Bumthang, Trashigang, Thimphu, and Sarpang.
Sangay Dorjee, an assistant coach with the Junior Academy says letting girls and boys play together helps create a more inclusive and competitive atmosphere.
“It has been three years since the Mini Dragon League started. At the start of the Mini Dragon League, children were grouped based on their gender but the Bhutan Football Federation placed both genders together to prove that in football even girls can play as well as boys,” said Sangay Dorjee, an assistant coach of the Junior Academy.
According to the girls, this setup of girls and boys playing together encourages teamwork, dispels gender stereotypes, and helps them enhance their skills.
“The coaches do not differentiate me because I am a girl. Rather they encourage us to play together. Playing with boys gives me more motivation and confidence. Because of that, I believe that I have improved a lot,” said Nima Rigyal Lhamo, a player.
“I have been playing in the Mini Dragon League for three years now. Some girls play in our academy. They play as well as we do. If they continue to play like this they will be able to play in the Mini Dragon League. This year, from our academy two girls have been selected for the national team,” said Sangay Rabten, another player.
This year’s Mini Dragon League, which ended last week, saw about 1,500 participants from the four districts.
Edited by Sherub Dorji