The youngster briefly talked about the importance of the tournament.
Before the commencement of the SAFF Suzuki Cup 2018 training camp, Anirudh Thapa, the AIFF Emerging Player of the year 2017 spoke to the media about the tournament in Bangladesh, his journey in football and much more.
“SAFF Championship is important for every one of us. It is our opportunity to prove ourselves and show it to the coach that we all have the potential to play for the national team as well.”
Watch: Anirudh Thapa talks ahead of the media interaction on Monday
The 20-year-old midfielder has already sealed an ISL triumph to his name, the heroic tale of Chennaiyin FC in 2017-18. He first broke onto the scene at the age of 14 when he was selected to join the AIFF regional academy at Kalyani. From there, he moved up the national youth team ranks and ended up being the captain of Elite Academy in the U-19 I-League. It was then in 2016 that he signed for Chennaiyin FC, while training with French Ligue 2 side FC Metz.
Having already represented India at U-16 and U-19 SAFF Championships, Thapa seemed enthusiastic about representing the country at another international tournament. “We will give our 100% whatever we have, we will give our best and for us, we need to play for the national team. SAFF is like a responsibility for us, to show everyone we can play,” he said.
Hailing from the state of Uttrakhand, falling in love with football is not an easy task. “I did not have many opportunities to play, it was a tough time. I started from my school and continued playing for the local clubs. It was then when people advised me to move to Chandigarh. It was my turning point.”
India manager Stephen Constantine and Thapa share a healthy relationship. The midfield ace is determined to win the coveted trophy in September and he realizes that it will not be an easy task for the Indian side.
“It was a tough journey because whenever you start something, you don’t know how the future will be. The main thing now is that we need to represent the nation. The pressure is always there,” he asserted.
“It was a proud moment for me and my family. being voted the Emerging Player at 20 is not an easy job. There are many good players in the country. For me, it’s like a dream which I never thought of,” Thapa revealed before continuing, “I have set a stage for myself and now I cannot go back. The only way now is upward and forward.”
The domestic season is close and the India international stated that he needs to work a bit harder, play regularly and the more matches he plays in the ISL the better and stronger he will be for the AFC Asian Cup 2019.
“If I work hard, the coach might select me and give me an opportunity to play there. I’ll keep working hard and let’s see for the best.”
AIFF Emerging player of the year has a big season ahead of him
Meanwhile, Thapa made a special mention of Gurpreet Singh Sandhu who helped him on various occasions to come up as a better player.
“Someone like Gurpreet-paaji was extremely welcoming and helped me in various situations.”
“Everyone in the team keeps telling me to hit the gym and put on some more mass. Playing in central midfield is a tough job as you get sandwiched by defenders as well as strikers,” the Uttarakhand-based player added.
“Representing the country is an achievement and in the next few months, we’re going to play the AFC Asian Cup. We won’t make it an easy job for the coach when he selects the team for January. We are fighting hard for the limited slots in the team.”
“SAFF is a tournament where we have generally been successful. Whether we’ll come back with the trophy from Bangladesh or not, that depends on time. But, we can assure that we won’t throw in the towel without a fight and we’ll give 100% on the pitch to accomplish the goal,” Thapa mentioned.
India will take on Sri Lanka in their opening fixture of the SAFF Suzuki Cup 2018 in Dhaka on September 5, 2018.