Arjun Tudu — an unsung hero

Tudu is nippy and has good foot control and with these qualities he makes rival defenders look silly. He was the man-of-the-match for Services in the semifinal as well as final of Santosh Trophy. A regular with the Services team for the last four years, Tudu also played his part, scoring crucial goals when his team won the title last year.

Arjun Tudu (left) of Services scoring a goal against Puducherry in the South Zone Santosh Trophy football qualifying match at the Nehru Stadium in Chennai on February 10, 2016.   -  THE HINDU

Striker Arjun Tudu embodies the dogged spirit of the Services team which retained the Santosh Trophy in Nagpur on Sunday. The diminutive Arjun Tudu may not have the attributes of an archetypal striker. But what he lacks, Tudu makes up with his perseverance and natural goal scoring ability.

Tudu is nippy and has good foot control and with these qualities he makes rival defenders look silly. Services defeated host Maharashtra in the final on strength of Tudu’s double strike. He was the man-of-the-match in both semifinal and final.

The 25-year-old from Bihar is one of the unsung heroes in Indian football. A regular with the Services team for the last four years, Tudu also played his part, scoring crucial goals when his team won the Santosh Trophy in Punjab last year.

“It was a great feeling to score the winning goals in the final against Maharashtra. I was able to replicate the faith my coach had in me. He told me to attack the ball and that was what I did in the final. Whenever I get the ball I always think of scoring; if I can't, I try to create space. I have always backed myself to beat any defender with my speed,” said Tudu, who idolises Brazilian legend Ronaldo.

Hailing from a remote village in Bihar, Tudu followed the footsteps of his father Chunu Tudu who was a district-level footballer. His career took off when he joined the SAI sports hostel in Danapur, Patna. In 2005, he was the top-scorer in the Subrato Cup football tournament in New Delhi. Tudu joined Services in 2008 after being part of its junior team from 2006 onwards.

Playing for Army XI, Tudu quickly established himself as the leading striker scoring 30 goals in different tournaments. In the highly competitive Kolkata football league, Tudu played a big role in his team finishing second in the previous season.

Tudu’s consistent performance earned him a call up to the Indian camp for the SAFF Cup in December last year and he spent 20 days with coach Constantine. Though he was disappointed not to be selected to the Indian team, Tudu said the stint was rewarding as he got to see and experience scientific coaching for the first time in his career. “I definitely picked up a few things from the camp. My fitness levels improved after the camp and I got to understand what modern training was all about,’’ said Tudu.

Stephen Constantine, who witnessed the Santosh Trophy final, was impressed with Tudu’s performance. “He has tremendous pace and is a good striker. I had a good look at him at the camp for SAFF Cup but he still has some way to go to get into the Indian team. He will be a better player if he plays in the l-League. Personally, if I were an I-League coach, I would have picked him in my side,’’ said Constantine.

Tudu, who spent some time with Constantine after the match, said the Indian coach congratulated him and his team for winning the title.

Tudu may still play in the I-League as East Bengal had evinced interest in him and approached the Services management for signing him on loan for the remaining matches in the league. Tudu is looking forward to play in the league but said the matter was not in his hands. “The offer came before the Santosh Trophy. I am ready to play but I have to get clearance from my team. If it happens, I will be happy,’’ said Tudu, who is however not ready to quit his job to accept offers from big clubs.

Tudu, who played for India under-17 in AFC qualifiers in 2005, says it is childhood dream to play for senior Indian team. “Whenever I watch the Indian team play on television, I long to play for the country. But I know it is not easy but I will keep trying and impress the national coach,’’ he said.

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