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Anas comes out of international retirement after Stimac’s text

Edathodika, 32, who played for Kerala Blasters in the last season of the Indian Super League, retired from India duty after the 2019 Asian Cup exit.

football Updated: Jun 11, 2019 22:43 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Anas,Anas Edathodika,Igor Stimac
File image of India footballer Anas Edathodika(AFP)

Exactly how invested Igor Stimac was in Indian football before being chosen as head coach of the senior national team can be gauged in his sending a text to Anas Edathodika, following which the central defender came out of international retirement.

“Coach Stimac has shown his faith in me, and it’s my turn to repay him,” Edathodika was quoted as saying by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) on Tuesday. “Coach messaged me to join the upcoming camp. Honestly, I was taken aback. Later Venky-bhai (assistant-coach Venkatesh Shanmugam) shared all details, and I just can’t wait to join the camp.”

“The respect I earned while playing for the national team is something which has pushed me to challenge myself again,” said the player for whom Mohun Bagan fans would chant ‘Kaun bachayega hamri nayia? Anas bhaiya, Anas bhaiya.’ In Edathodika, they trusted to prevent the sailboat—Mohun Bagan’s insignia—from sinking.

Edathodika, 32, who played for Kerala Blasters in the last season of the Indian Super League, retired from India duty after the 2019 Asian Cup exit.

In what was his 19th and last game for India, Edathodika was injured and had to be replaced two minutes into the match against Bahrain which India lost to a second-half injury-time penalty.

Named on Tuesday among 35 probables for a preparatory camp beginning in Mumbai on June 25 ahead of next month’s Intercontinental Cup, even if Edathodika doesn’t make the cut, his availability could lead to a win-win situation when the World Cup qualifiers begin in September.

DEFENSIVE DEPTH

It would add depth to the central defence pool of Sandesh Jhingan, Rahul Bheke, Salam Ranjan Singh and Adil Khan who put in a solid shift against Thailand in the King’s Cup. That could mean young Anwar Ali, who was part of the India under-17 squad in the 2017 World Cup, and Narender Gahlot do not have to be fast-tracked into the senior side because not all can make the transition as swiftly as midfielder Amarjit Singh Kiyam did in Thailand last week.

It fit that Edathodika said he is not looking beyond doing well at the camp. But what works in his favour is that he has been only a camp and two matches away from international duty.

“When @anasedathodika announced his retirement from football, I knew it wasn’t the end. He is a fighter and though injuries had taken their toll on him during the last few years, I always knew that he had more to give and he would come back when the time was right,” CK Vineeth, Edathodika’s teammate at Kerala Blasters, tweeted soon after news of the comeback broke.

Probables’ list

GOALKEEPERS: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, Kamaljit Singh, Vishal Kaith. D

EFENDERS: Pritam Kotal, Nishu Kumar, Rahul Bheke, Salam Ranjan Singh, Sandesh Jhingan, Adil Khan, Anas Edathodika, Anwar Ali (Jr), Sarthak Golui, Subhasish Bose, Narender Gahlot.

MIDFIELDERS: Udanta Singh, Jackichand Singh, Brandon Fernandes, Anirudh Thapa, Raynier Fernandes, Pronay Halder, Rowllin Borges, Vinit Rai, Sahal Abdul, Amarjit Singh, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Mandar Rao Desai, Ashique Kuruniyan, Nikhil Poojary, Michael Soosairaj.

FORWARDS: Balwant Singh, Sunil Chhetri, Jobby Justin, Farukh Choudhary, Manvir Singh.

First Published: Jun 11, 2019 22:40 IST