Bhutan’s 'orange warriors' give helping hand to contain COVID

Bhutanese people love football. And their "orange warriors" - the colours of the national team and the national federation -  are making this small landlocked kingdom in South Asia in the Eastern Himalayas proud by their selfless act of offering their services to contain the raging coronavirus

Sep 09, 2020
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Bhutanese people love football. And their "orange warriors" - the colours of the national team and the national federation -  are making this small landlocked kingdom in South Asia in the Eastern Himalayas proud by their selfless act of offering their services to contain the raging coronavirus.

As the tiny Himalayan country wages its war against the virus, the De-suup, which means the "orange warrior" emblematic of the  Bhutan Football Federation (BFF), have signed in as volunteers. They have now become an integral part of the fight against the virus.

Working round the clock, these volunteers have been drawn from various departments of the BFF. So far, Bhutan has reported 234 cases, still the lowest in South Asia, and it has yet to record a fatality.

The BFF agreed to send 20 volunteers from various departments, including technical coaches, competitions, media and marketing, and administrative workers, to participate in the noble cause. The programme is built on the idea of community service.

“During these difficult times, we have to come together as a society. It gives me great joy and a sense of pride that our Federation staff, 14 men and six women, are currently serving our nation,” BFF President Dasho Ugen Tsechup was quoted in FIFA.com. 

The 20 orange warriors have been helping to guard borders in the south, to guard temples in the north, working as late-night patrol and helping with the rescue missions and any unforeseen events.

The idea of the programme is built upon the spirit of volunteerism, the positive influence of ethics and the values of community service, integrity, and civic responsibility.

All the volunteers underwent a one-month long training programme to learn and assist the government with any kind of help needed during the pandemic, and to learn about safety measures and quarantine protocols.

They were also trained about guarding hospitals and crowded areas.

“It is our duty to serve the nation when needed,” said Karma Choden Tshering, who works as a grassroots coach and is currently serving as a border patrol guard in Samtse near the border with India. "Bhutan is a very small country with limited people working in hospitals and the armed forces. It is a time of need and I am very happy that our federation's management team gave us their full support to do this.” Bhutan has a population of  773,185 inhabitants. 

Before starting their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification campaign, the national team was at the bottom of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. But a pair of breakthrough wins in 2015 over Sri Lanka – their first in World Cup history – energised the interest in the national team.

Youth coach Ugyen Dorji was stationed at Phajoding Monastery, which is about a three-hour hike at an altitude of 3,600 metres above sea level from the capital Thimphu."I was stationed there for two weeks to monitor visitors, campers, and hikers to ensure that they followed the COVID-19 safety procedures and also to assist them in any unforeseen events. It was very challenging since we had to walk up and down at least twice a day and in a tough climate."

Bhutan has been a success story in its fight against COVID-19 and has been able to fight and contain the spread of the coronavirus with decisive and collective leadership.

On August 11, Bhutan ordered its first 21-days nationwide lockdown after a returning resident tested positive for coronavirus following her discharge from quarantine and coming into close contact with people in the capital Thimphu.

All schools, institutions, offices, and commercial establishments were shut down and exams were postponed. Officials have attributed the slow spread of the virus in the country to early screening and monitoring at entry points, testing and sealing of borders including the closure of the only international airport at Paro.