Anirudh Thapa was dubbed as the next big thing in Indian football since his first day of selection at the AIFF Academy. Not even 21, the shy guy from Uttarakhand has displayed his maturity on the field, thus earning him a stable place in the midfield.
“I like to attack and play forward. It is my job to help others score. I like to have the ball at my feet and create chances,” he says. “Everybody wants to score goals. I am no different but my first priority is to help the forwards,” this time he smiles.
“UAE will be the toughest team in our group as they are hosts. They possess a lot of quality. Thailand and Bahrain will also present their own set of challenges. But we are ready for it. We need to play united as a team, and aim to overcome the adversity,” he echoes about India’s opponents in the forthcoming AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.
In the International Friendly against Jordan, Thapa played a striker, a challenge he relished. “Playing as a striker in a depleted squad was extremely challenging for me, and the team. Given the circumstances, we put up a decent enough performance. The match against Oman was also a learning experience,” he reflects.
Thapa’s partnership with Pronoy Halder has been the talking point in recent matches when the Blue Tigers have played. “Playing alongside Pronoy has helped me immensely. Now I can go forward because I know he will protect the back, and will take care of the space I leave,” he maintains. “I can now play with a lot more freedom than I used to.”
A product of the AIFF Academy project, Thapa just cannot stop talking about his teenage days at the Academy. “The AIFF Academy has helped me immensely in my career. I am here because of the way I was brought up through the system. The journey has been very hard and challenging but it has been worth it,” he pronounces.
“When I was 14, I challenged myself to see if I could play with 16-year-olds. When I was 16, I challenged myself to play with 19-year-olds and so on. Every day is a challenge for you. That’s what I was taught.”