The centre-back is set to return to India imminently.

The Indian football team have been dealt a huge blow in their preparations for the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup joint-qualifiers. Veteran defender Anas Edathodika has left the ongoing national team training camp in Dubai. The All India Football Federation (AIFF), made the official announcement through social media, intimating that the defender will be flying back to India at the earliest.

Incidentally, the tweet by the AIFF mentions a family emergency for his withdrawal, which is rumoured to be the passing of Anas’ mother back in Malappuram. The Blue Tigers are soon to depart for Dushanbe and Muscat to face Afghanistan and Oman respectively and will most likely be without the services of the experienced defender.

The 32-year-old would have been the favourite to start in Igor Stimac’s lineup. Now, the defence which is already without the injured Sandesh Jhingan, still sidelined due to a knee problem, will have another gaping hole with Anas’ absence. Losing the ATK defender comes as a further setback, considering Hyderabad FC’s Adil Khan also remains a doubt after missing the last two fixtures in the Indian Super League for his club.

The Croatian tactician might turn to Bengaluru FC’s Rahul Bheke to once again play the role of a centre-back. The versatile defender will be tasked with keeping the opposition attackers silent, alongside one of the youngsters in Narender Gahlot or Sarthak Golui. It remains unclear whether Anas will rejoin the squad for either of the qualifiers. These are must-win games for India, if they are to retain hopes of qualifying for the next round.

The loss comes as a huge blow for India, who will be up against a brave Afghanistan side that play attacking football. Keeping them at bay will be tougher without Anas, who had been in a bright spell of form in the ISL.

We at KhelNow offer our condolences and wish strength to Anas Edathodika and his family in these troubling times.