The transition in Indian football has been such that Anirudh Thapa, barely 23, finds himself a senior pro amidst the influx of young talent that is making it to the Senior Team. Currently in Doha, Thapa, a former AIFF Academy cadet, opens up about his role in the team, the ‘challenging times,’ improving on him converting more chances, the forthcoming match against Asian champions Qatar, and much more.
What were you focussing on when you were at home after the International Friendlies in March?
The primary aim was to stay fit, and in proper condition so that when the National Team call came I would be in my best physical prowess. Professor (Luka Radman, fitness coach) has always insisted on building muscle power and strength and I was working relentlessly in the gym. But then the second wave struck and I was confined to my home for the last two weeks. From that time onward, I worked mostly on the individual programmes which were sent to me.
Do you feel you have reached your peak?
I never feel so. There is still a long way to go for me and I need to improve on a whole lot of aspects.
What are those aspects?
I need to convert more chances. Vision wise, I know I can do better. I need to be adept to the changing playing circumstances that arise during the match. For example, there may be phases where we need to play direct football during the match. I need to push up front a bit more to help increase the numbers. But then, it should never be coming at the cost of me leaving a vacant hole in the midfield. I am learning how to balance it. I need to watch my back and go up.
How do you describe your role in the team?
My role has changed. There are many young players coming in and challenging everyone. My job is to guide them as to what is expected from them in the national team set-up. You just cannot be selfish and just help yourself. You need to think about others too.
Can you elaborate?
The set-up in the National Team is a different feeling altogether. Starting from the pride to the game sense to the tempo and intensity of the training sessions, and eventually the matches – whatever I have learnt, I share with them. At the end, we are representing 1.4 billion people and they are never to be let down.
The last time we played Qatar in Qatar, we held them goalless. What are your thoughts leading to the return-leg?
That was some 18 months back. It’s a different situation right now. But we understand that Qatar are eagerly looking forward to the match. But we know that we will try to do good on the field. We don’t want to be disappointed. We are not there to make up the numbers. We are confident in our abilities and we are taking it one match at a time.
(Nilanjan Datta / AIFF Media)