Anas Edathodika’s journey from earning Rs 180 per day as an auto-rickshaw driver to earning more than Rs 20 lakhs per annum as a professional footballer is one to be told out loud. The Lion hearted defender recently joined footballing giants Mohun Bagan FC, a move which might prove decisive for the Mariners.
His story may be coined inspiring, remarkable or riveting but it is surely stunning. Born on 15th February 1987 in a small town in Kerala called Malappuram, the defender grew up in a perfect surrounding of footballing culture.
“Though small, Malappuram has a rich history of football to boast of. The city is termed the original capital of Indian football, where the game took birth and was played in plenty during British rule. Kottapadi Maidan, now the Malappuram Sports Council Stadium, played host to numerous games between the natives (who took the field barefoot) and the British. Coming from a city that breathed football, it wasn’t too late till Edathodika caught the fever and jumped into it.” – Anubhav Roda
Edathodika began to take football as a career seriously in his tenth grade when he decided to join the U-14 Malappuram team. This move marked the commencement of his life changing career.
Living a life similar to the other young lads in town, Edathodika had to take up a job alongside his studies to support his family. The less skilled labour of an auto-rickshaw driver was the occupation he was forced into. The Rs 180 per day earning was sufficient to accommodate his studies.
There are no I-League or second division clubs in Kerala and, hence, the dream of pursuing football professionally comes true for very few. The life turning moment came when he joined the football team of NSS College, Manjeri under the watchful eyes of Dr PM Sudhir Kumar.
During an inter-collegiate tournament in 2007, former Indian Goalkeeper and then Indian U-19 goalkeeping coach Feroz Sherif spotted the potential in Edathodika. Sherif went on to urge the tall and lanky defender to attend trials for the then second division side Mumbai FC.
Defining career changes
The then Mumbai FC coach Dave Booth, was highly impressed by Anas Edathodika and quickly drafted him into his side. The following season only, Mumbai FC was promoted to the I-League and the Malappuram origin defender was offered a bumper deal of Rs 60 Lakhs for 3 years. Yes efforts pay off.
Edathodika credited his head coach Dave Booth for making him the defender he is today during his stint at Mumbai FC. The meteoric growth of Edathodika as a player in these four years was such that Pune FC came calling and he nodded in agreement.
During the 2012-13 season, the talismanic defender joined the team late for pre-season training because of being hit with Malaria. But in his entire footballing career, that season turned out to be the best he has ever had.
He started all 26 matches for Pune FC, and the team only conceded 26 goals that season. He became a key member to the Pune FC squad that finished Second in the league (only 3 points off the summit), the closest the club has ever gone in the I-League.
His glory never stagnated there. At the end of that very season, Anas Edathodika was rewarded as the First Indian player to win the Pune FC Player of the year accolade.
The down to earth person was pronounced as club captain going into the 2013-14 season ; Yet another feather to his cap.
“Honestly much honoured… great. I had never worn the captain’s arm band ever. This was a first in my playing career at any level as far as my memory stretches and I am thankful to one and all for this opportunity. Initially, coach said he was taking a risk by fielding me in the playing eleven, but when he announced that I was leading the side I got the confidence I needed. I thank coach for helping me believe.”
The National team mystery
Although Edathodika continued to perform wonderfully well for Pune FC, he was constantly ignored for the national team to the surprise of many. Maybe it was down to politics or other non-footballing reasons unknown. It could not have been for footballing reasons that he was not a part of the Indian squad, which was always thin at the back.
But as destiny had it, Edathodika got his elusive national team call only to see him being injured. In unfortunate circumstances , the Lion hearted defender had to give the International friendlies and World Cup qualifiers a miss.
The ISL episode
The Keralite had to give the inaugural ISL season a miss because of injury woes. But what followed after in the 2015 ISL auctions mesmerized him. He was named among the top 10 Indian players in the ISL. Delhi Dynamos went on to snatch him for a decent Rs 40 lakhs.
Edathodika has become a significant player for Delhi Dynamos. In ISL 2016, he reached the play-offs with the Delhi franchise. But an honest critic would tell you that the defender has failed to reach his prime form in the past two years. Not that his ability is degrading, but because of the troubles he has been facing with his knee. He spent most of the 2014-15 season on the treatment bed.
On 23rd December 2016, Mohun Bagan FC bolstered their squad by adding Anas Edathodika to their line up. The star defender might prove to be the missing piece that cost the Mariners the title last season. His presence will be crucial to the defence for the Kolkata giants and will be deployed alongside Dynamos teammate Souvik Chakraborty.
With Sony Norde (the fastest and maybe the best player in the I-League) and Jeje Lalpekhlua ( the 2016 AIFF Player of the year) up front, Mohun Bagan might have just perfected their squad by forming a strong defence line along.
The 29 year old defender now fully fit, will not only eye the I-League title but also hope to earn a call for the Indian National team again ; and this time earn a cap.
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