I was in Bhutan last month on holiday with my wife and in-laws. Before the trip, the only two things I knew about this small country was that it was voted "Happiest Country in the World" in an index ranking the Gross National Happiness and that not too long ago it was ranked lowest in the world (209th out of 209 member countries) in the FIFA rankings.
As we landed in the beautiful Paro Valley, I started getting excited in the anticipation of being around happy people and experiencing majestic landscape. What I wasn't anticipating was discussing or seeing anything connected to football which is typically one of the ways I like to explore a new country. So you can imagine my surprise when our eccentric tour guide Yashi took us to the national football stadium to watch a local match on the second day of trip.
The stadium was beautifully situated right in the heart of Bhutan's capital city Thimpu and I was blown away by the quality of the pitch and passion in the stands. Thousands of people filled Changlimithang Stadium all happily spending their Saturday evening watching a mediocre domestic league match. It was incredible to see many Bhuddist monks cheering on the home team alongside poor villagers, rich businessmen and families. My whole family had a blast and ended up watching most of the 90 minute match - not because of the quality of the product but because of the cultural experience of watching professional sport in new country.
I later found out that the pitch was a gift from FIFA which was donated in 2012 as part of FIFA's Goal project. For me this was another sign of the power of the beautiful game and the opportunity that FIFA has to positively impact communities all over the world.
Sharing a few pictures: