RESETTLED: Jitu Basnet at his shack in the refugee camp in Beldange, Nepal, and with his students in America (top).
Jitu Basnet was born in Lapsibote in southern Bhutan 34 years ago, and spent 18 years at the refugee camp in Beldange of Jhapa district. He loved football, and got to play in various clubs in eastern Nepal. But it was after he was resettled in Tennessee in the United States five years ago that he really blossomed as a football player and coach. He got his referee license from the US Soccer Foundation three years ago and regularly referees games and coaches football teams in Nashville. He now has a car, house and a country – things he didn’t have in the refugee camp. In a happy coincidence, Basnet’s assistant coach in Nashville is Purna Khawas, who is also a former refugee from Bhutan. As boys, the two played football barefoot in the muddy fields of Beldange in Nepal. The two have organised football matches in 35 cities in 22 states in the US. And every June, they also organise football matches between Bhutanese teams in the US. Next June, they hope to have 40 teams competing and will raise the $50,000 to organise it from former refugees resettled in the US.