Overcoming all adversities
Anirudh Thapa has not only cemented his place in the national team but has established himself as the best Indian midfielder. In conversation with Arif Mohammad, the 22-year-old talks about his early days, the Indian football scene, his journey with Chennaiyin FC and more
Could you tell us about your journey from the junior football teams to being one of the prime figures in the national team?
The journey has been nothing short of a dream come true. It has always been my dream to play football at the professional level and represent the national team. It is a matter of huge honour and prestige to represent your national team at any level, across any sport. To get that opportunity is something I will never take for granted. I have been working really hard, ensuring I do what is required of me and try to play to the best of my ability. I have received a lot of love and support from my family and dear ones. Most importantly, the guidance I have received from my coaches, teammates and peers on and off the field is the reason why I am where I am today. Still, a long way to go.
What does being the AIFF Men Emerging Footballer Of The Year 2018 feel like?
Obviously, it is a very humbling and happy moment at the same time. Such awards are a part of the journey and it only motivates me to keep pushing myself. This is not an award just for me, it is for everyone who has helped me and continues to help me in evolving as a professional footballer and as a better person.
What were the hurdles you faced before making it to the national squad and what was the point that motivated you to keep getting better?
Obviously, ups and downs in form and consistency are the hurdles we face as footballers or for any other sports person. But it is about working hard and not giving up, to keep going even when the tides are against you. We have faced a lot of setbacks at the club and national level, which serve as learning experiences and stepping stones. It is important to keep moving – as Martin Luther King Jr said, "If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward."
In terms of popularity, what is your take on the Indian football scenario?
The Indian football scene is one that is growing and improving at a rapid pace. It is an exciting time for players to be in the middle. Obviously, ISL has played a huge role in pushing Indian football even further into the forefront. There have been massive improvements on all fronts.
During the first few games, what went wrong for Chennaiyin FC and what motivated the team to keep hopes of a semifinal berth alive?
It was a mix of factors that went against us in the first few games. We got off to a bad start, and to add to it, few decisions went against us. Inconsistencies also played a huge role. But we have bounced back now and are on good momentum. Our hopes of making the semis are still alive and we will be fighting tooth and nail to make it a reality.
From the team's perspective, which performance would you rate the highest and why?
It is difficult to pick a performance that way, but I would say our performances in the last two home games are among our best. We have been really intensive in our approach from the word go, following the coach's instructions and trying to execute what he has in mind. We have been rewarded with wins as a result.
India possesses huge football talent. Your advice to the budding footballers who have been following your journey?
It is important to dream and believe that you'll make it happen. I would advise youngsters to dream and then work hard on giving themselves a chance to achieve. Anything is possible with hard work. The talent is right there in so many of us, it just needs to be backed by the right attitude, hard work and work ethics.