’World’s worst’ Bhutan enjoys dream World Cup debut
’World’s worst’ Bhutan enjoys dream World Cup debut
Tshering Dorji scored the only goal in the 81st minute at Colombo’s Sugathadasa stadium, stunning the vast majority of the 3,500-strong crowd who had been expecting the hosts to swat aside the visitors.
The winner came as Bhutan launched a counter attack after a sustained period of Sri Lankan pressure, with the skipper Karma Shedrup Tshering passing to Dorji who slotted home calmly from inside the penalty box.
Ahead of the match, Sri Lanka were ranked 174 in FIFA’s world rankings while Bhutan had the dubious honor of propping up the 209 league of nations table after only ever winning three matches in their history.
But Bhutan, who normally play against a backdrop of snowy Himalayan peaks, reaped the benefits of acclimatising in the build-up at a training camp in Thailand and coped well with the humid conditions.
“We tried hard to acclimatize to the conditions here. We didn’t allow humidity to become a problem,” a delighted Bhutan coach Chokey Nima said after what was the country’s first ever appearance in the World Cup.
“We will celebrate today, but we are also preparing for the next challenge.”
The two teams meet again when Sri Lanka travel to Bhutan’s capital Thimpu for a return match on March 17.
Bhutan has been a member of FIFA only since 2000 and a lack of funding had prevented it from taking part in previous World Cup qualification tournaments.
Thursday’s match was one a group featuring the 12 lowest-ranked teams in the Asian confederation who were kicking off the marathon contest for the right to take part in the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia.
Historymaker: Saudi teen secures Kingdom first ever Olympic gold medal
- I have been working towards this moment for 10 years, said the gold medalist
- I came for gold and this is the result of years of serious work: Al-Assiri
BUENOS AIRES: It is said that the karate-ka who has given the necessary years of commitment and meditation to the sport is both fearless and tranquil. They can, it is said, be calm even in a burning building.
Last night, inside a furnace-like Europe Pavilion at the Youth Olympic Park, and in front of Thomas Bach, the President of the International Olympic Committee, Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Al-Assiri won the Kingdom its first ever Olympic gold medal. And welcomed it, initially at least, with utmost calm.
Defeating Masaki Yamaoka of Japan 8-0 in the Men’s Kumite -61kg final, the 17-year-old Saudi immediately thanked his opponent and bowed to the various officials, before turning to his coach, removing his red gloves slowly, and greeting him with a starch salute. Only afterwards, once these rituals of respect were over and his opponent had slipped away, did Al-Assiri explode with joy, his face contorting into beautiful agony as he screamed in guttural Arabic and jumped around the mat.
“I am so happy, so proud,” he said, his prize glinting in the spotlight of the world’s media. “This is the first gold medal for Saudi Arabia and our first medal ever in karate. I have been working towards this moment for 10 years, especially in the past two when my training intensified. I came for gold and this is the result of years of serious work. It was very difficult, but I am just so proud. Thank you to Allah.”
The victory marked Saudi’s third time on the podium at the two-week Youth Olympics, after bronze medals in weightlifting and 400m Hurdles. It is a stellar return for a country that brought only nine athletes to Argentina and has won just one medal at this level before, a bronze in equestrian four years ago. Yousef Jalaiden, the chef de mission for the Saudi delegation, had confidently predicted medals earlier this week, but even he admits expectations have been exceeded.
“We are very happy right now,” Jalaiden said, watching as Al-Assiri, wrapped in the Saudi flag, posed for photos with Prince Fahd bin Juluwe bin Abdulaziz bin Musaed, the head of the delegation. “It’s our best achievement ever at an Olympics — be it Youth or the full Olympics. We are so happy — we hoped for three medals, like I said before, and we got them,”
Karate is making its Olympic debut this week ahead of Tokyo 2020 and Assiri had secured his place after winning at the first qualifying event in Croatia this summer. In front of vocal support from Saudis and Egyptians, he was handed the historic victory after his offensive front-footed display culminated with Yamaoka fouling four times during their bout.
“During training, people from other countries were all telling us Mohammed would take gold, but for us it was never a certainty,” Jalaiden added. “We expected him to reach the final, but when you get to a final, anything can happen. He has been training exceptionally hard though and it has all paid off.”
Earlier in the afternoon, Egypt’s Yasmin Nasr El-Gewily won the Women’s Kumite 53kg final, defeating Japan’s Rinka Tahata 2-1. “Egypt are our neighbours and we have an excellent relationship with them, so today it is like our nation is one,” said Jalaiden. “We have both enjoyed great success here.”