Seasoned Anas Edathodika looks to keep fighting

It is perhaps the fighting spirit of the 30-year-old that has made him turn up for India duty rather than stay back home and tend to an ailing father.

Anas Edathodika trains at Sree Kanteerava Stadium ahead of India’s AFC Asian Cup Qualifier match against the Kyrgyz Republic.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Anas Edathodika is a fighter. It is the quality that he feels endeared him to the legendary Brazilian Roberto Carlos during his time at the Delhi Dynamos. It’s the spirit that has kept him going through a decade of professional football before making his national team debut in 2017. It’s also perhaps this fire that has made him turn up for India duty rather than stay back home and tend to an ailing father.

“My coach asked me if I wanted to go and stay with the family,” Anas says. “But I’ll go after this and get him treated by a good doctor.”

Right from his childhood days in Malappuram in Kerala, life has been tough for Anas. When he started playing football, he used to drive an autorickshaw to supplement his income. With hardly any I-League clubs in Kerala to play for, Anas then had to move to Mumbai (2007-11) and Pune (2011-15) and spend nearly 10 years there. And even after two highly successful seasons with the Dynamos in the Indian Super League, it seemed a travesty – injuries notwithstanding – that he wasn’t a big enough name.

‘Big achievement’

“I have played for 10 years and I still haven’t won a trophy,” says the 30-year-old. “But I have gained this Indian jersey and it’s a big achievement for me.”

Anas credits the then Mumbai FC coach Dave Booth for kindling this insatiable desire in him. “I feel that if that was an Indian coach he wouldn’t have picked me from trials. I was not that good then. I didn’t know the basics of defending. He taught me that. He used to shout at me for tackling players like a mad man and from that I learnt things.”

So everlasting has its effect been that it carried him into the cauldron that is Kolkata football as he stepped into his 30s and helped him become one of Mohun Bagan’s defensive mainstays. “Players in Kerala used to tell me to play in Kolkata once before I finish my career. Now that I have played there I understand the difference. Fan pressure is immense and you have to win every match there. But I think players should be under pressure so that they can achieve something and get that winning mentality.”

On Tuesday, however, when India takes on Kyrgyz Republic in the AFC Asian Cup qualifier, he might have a chance to ease a bit. Alongside Sandesh Jhingan, he looks set to be the first choice centre-back. But true to his nature, he takes nothing for granted. “The team has a number of good players in my position. I consider myself very lucky,” he says. “I have got an opportunity and I don’t want to let it slip. I don’t want this dream to end soon.”

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