The 33-year-old talked about a host of topics related to the ISL, Indian Football Team and more.

  • It’s always good to play with ‘brother’ Sandesh Jhingan
  • Sumit Rathi can be a constant in national team back four in future
  • Igor Stimac has a clear picture of how our youth systems should work

The outbreak of coronavirus and the ongoing nationwide lockdown has understandably brought football to a standstill all across India. With players also enjoying their well-deserved break from competitive action, most of them have been very active across social media. As a part of Khel Now’s efforts to keep fans posted on the latest developments in Indian football, we recently caught up with Indian Football Team and ATK star Anas Edathodika, who talked to us on a host of topics, including the reasons behind his return from retirement, ATK’s title-winning campaign in the 2019-20 Indian Super League (ISL) and his link with Sandesh Jhingan.

Anas began by speaking about the reasons behind his retirement and why he chose to come back six months later. “It was a very tough decision to retire in January (2019), which I believed was the right time to make way for youngsters,” he said, before adding: “The main motivation (behind the return) was Igor (Stimac)’s words over the phone.”

“It was a very special moment for me, I mean, seriously – a Croatian legend and a top-class player asking a retired player to come back and making me understand what it means for him to have me back! He inquired in detail about the reasons to retire, before asking if I could make a comeback if he calls me to the national camp? Also, he said many things about what it means to wear the blue jersey for the country and I felt very proud and valued.”

The defender went on to lavish praise on the Indian team coach, while also expressing confidence in his style and way of thinking. “We have to give him enough time. It’s not easy to have results very soon. He has already given debuts to many youngsters. We have started playing more passing games and are developing a style of our own. In 2-3 years he can get good results for the country,” he said. “Also, Igor has a clear picture of how our U-16,17,19 systems are working at the moment and how it should work.”

“Although, (Stephen) Constantine gives chances to youngsters, he mostly prefers experienced players in his playing squad,” he added, trying to draw comparisons between Stimac and the former Indian coach. “Igor gives a good amount of match experience and motivation for the young talents, which is good for Indian football. Constantine helped the national team reach its second-highest FIFA ranking of 96 from 173 and that’s a great achievement for all of us! Constantine believed in me during his time and Igor motivated me to come back to the national team,” Anas Edathodika went on.

Over the past couple of years, injuries have constantly bothered the 33-year-old. When asked to elaborate on the troubles he faced in the recently-concluded ISL season, Anas revealed that his latest injury was caused while attempting a rough tackle.

“I didn’t feel at all that I had any fitness issues last season because when I’m into the game or having the feel of the game, I don’t think about slight injuries unnecessarily. I have given everything for my team whenever I played and that matters the most. I do not hesitate to throw my head or body for a tackle and I always give more than 100% to my team. Yes, my last injury also happened after throwing my body for a tackle – that happens in football!”

He further added, “But yes, injuries are part and parcel of the game and it’s nothing new for me. They have been crossing my path since I first started playing football, but I don’t give up and I will give my everything whenever I get a chance! As a defender, I think it’s due to the style of our play that we have more injuries. In my case, as long as I get a chance to save my team, I am not afraid to put myself on the line.”

Anas Edathodika got his earliest break at Mumbai FC in 2008, after performing very well in various Sevens tournaments across Kerala. He then went on to play for Pune FC, Delhi Dynamos, Mohun Bagan, Jamshedpur FC and Kerala Blasters, before joining ATK and winning his maiden ISL title in the 2019-20 season. The defender recollected his title-winning campaign with the Kolkata club and lauded coach Antonio Habas for his efforts with the team.

“ATK has been one of the best clubs in the country since it was formed. They have a really good management which is very important for a club. They are also very professional. Habas is an aggressive coach, who always wants to win like everyone. But, you could see that passion and expressions on his face every time!”

“He used to stress on the importance of becoming the champions in each and every training session and that mentality was a constant during last season. He is easily one of the best coaches around and having him kept the team highly motivated,” said Anas, before sharing his opinion on their merger with Mohun Bagan.

“Mohun Bagan is one of the best and oldest clubs in India. They have the best fans and Kolkata is the Mecca of Indian football. The merger will be beneficial for both teams and it will bring about a good atmosphere for football fans in the city.”

The centre-back also remembered his friend and teammate Sandesh Jhingan, during our interview. The Kerala Blasters legend has also been his partner in the national team and Anas Edathodika revealed that playing with him has always been a pleasure. “Sandesh is my brother and it’s a very good feeling to play with him. Off the field, we have a very good friendship. We eat our meals together and spend a lot of time with each other. That understanding reflects on the field. I know when he goes for a tackle, just like he knows when I go for a tackle. The mentality was the same for both of us.”

“The first time I played with him was in March 2017 and since then we have developed a good partnership for the national team. I have really enjoyed our partnership for the country and I hope to play with him more in the future if I get a chance,” he added.

The 33-year-old also picked ATK starlet Sumit Rathi as one of the upcoming Indian stars to watch out for in the years to come.

“Sumit is a fighter, he is a very aggressive and dedicated player with a positive attitude. He is also very hard-working and I think he can reach great heights and be a constant in the back four of our national team in the future. He is young and I’m sure he’s working more on his technical side and he can be a great addition for any coach. Habas also likes him very much. I wish him good luck!” Anas Edathodika concluded.

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