The Blue Tigers midfielder opened up on the start of his professional career, captaining the national team and more.

Indian football team and Chennaiyin FC midfielder Anirudh Thapa interacted with fans in an Instagram live session on Red FM Bengaluru’s Instagram handle. The 22-year-old had a brilliant season with Chennaiyin and was instrumental in the side’s exceptional performance that saw them spark a remarkable turnaround and end the season as the runners-up of the competition.

The midfielder shared his story of how it all started. “When I was in my tenth standard, during the summer break there were trials for AIFF Elite Academy in Dehradun but at that time I had to go to my hostel. I gave an excuse that I have a tooth ache and needed a surgery and I took two days leave. I appeared for the trials and got selected and was called to Delhi for the final trials, so I had to extend once again.”

“Then I got selected and I was very happy, I returned and during the Diwali holidays or Dussehra, I received a letter saying I had to join by the end of September. My principal at St. Stephen’s was very supportive and asked me to go and not worry about a thing. My brother was good in football too, he also got selected for one of the national camps but wasn’t allowed to go because he had exams. In that matter, I was lucky enough.”

Speaking about the impact AIFF Elite Academy had on his career and how it helped him shape as a better professional, he said, “It was not like we only had to focus on sports or football alone, we went for our classes also and our discipline was there. When we went to the academy, we were taught to take of everything ourselves, how to maintain a daily routine and small things that mattered a lot and they carry so much importance even today.”

Asked about the events that take place in the national team dressing room, he said “Amrinder Singh is the DJ of the dressing room. In the bus too, he plays all the songs, mostly Punjabi, but he has a playlist. There is no real divide between the seniors and juniors, the seniors always make sure to keep the mood in the dressing room light. They are down to earth and are very helpful and funny when you interact with them which is very comforting.”

On handling anger issues while playing on the field he said, “I don’t get angry very often, I usually control it. Players say that your game goes down when you’re angry. I usually know the opponents off the field so I try to distract them to make sure they don’t focus.”

“I remember one incident when we played against Bengaluru FC in 2017. There was a foul and I started playing around by pushing Harmanjot Khabra. After the game, Abhishek (Bachchan) sir came to said ‘Are you mad? You were fighting with Khabra and you know how angry he gets’ and then I told him I was just joking with him.”

Anirudh Thapa has been a regular name in the Indian line-up in recent years and has performed exceptionally well to keep himself in the first team. “Every match has been important and a good one for me. Wearing that national team jersey and entering the pitch was a very proud moment for me. I can’t just say one match which was good for me.”

Moreover, the youngster has been dubbed as the future of Indian football and is expected to lead the Blue Tigers one day. “It’s a good thing when people praise or compliment. That is for the future and I can’t predict anything about it, I just need to focus on the present and work hard. I know there are many players in the team who are capable of captaincy. I have to work twice as hard to make these expectations a reality in the future.”

“It’s not an easy thing to be the captain of the national team. There are many experienced and talented players. To reach Chhetri’s level, I might have to work almost ten times more. We know how focused he is, his diet and routine is very strict and to achieve whatever he has done, it needs a lot of work.”

On the players he looks up to and admires the most, Anirudh Thapa had a great line-up of stars he’d like to learn from. “I really admire Eugeneson (Lyngdoh) and Rowllin Borges, they have a really good style of football and have great sense.”

“I watch videos to learn from top players in European football. Also I don’t have a particular player, but I admire Luka Modric a lot,” he concluded.

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