India National Team: Anas Edathodika's journey was brief but brave

Anas Edathodika made his international debut at the age of 30 but he was soon India's first-choice centre-back...

From driving auto-rickshaws to supplement his dad's earnings to fighting his way up the football ladder, defender Anas Edathodika's journey to the become Stephen Constantine's first-choice centre-back in the Indian national team is one to remember. 

The Malappuram-born defender had to wait patiently for his first national team call up that finally arrived at the age of 30. He made his debut in a 3-2 win over Cambodia in March 2017 and has been everpresent in the team since. 

The 31-year-old is never one to shy away from challenges but injuries have been the biggest obstacle for the player. He has been a consistent performer when fit and it is a pity that he could not feature more for his country. 

Anas and Jhingan India vs Thailand

Anas Edathodika put pen to paper on his first major contract at the now-defunct Mumbai FC more than 10 years ago. It did not take long for scouts to spot the talent in him. He then featured for the state team and Pune FC came calling soon after. Anas' continued excellence in defence earned him the club's Player of the Year award in 2013.

The emergence of the Indian Super League helped Anas Edathodika into the spotlight as he signed for Delhi Dynamos in 2015. The player's calm and composed nature of defending is a prized asset that is still a rarity in Indian football. 

Anas' reading of the game is excellent and he is not one to jump into aggressive challenges.

In fact, he was overlooked by the national head coaches for quite a while before Stephen Constantine spotted him and gave him a chance after taking over the Blue Tigers for a second stint.

Anas Edathodika Mohun Bagan I-League 2017

His formidable centre-back partnership with Sandesh Jhingan has set the bar high and despite his fitness issues, his brief national team stint will go down as one that could have turned out be so much more.

Ask the likes of Ashique Kuruniyan and Sahal Abdul Samad about their role model in Indian football and you will hear them say, 'Anas Ikka'.

The Keralite's international career came to a disappointing end when he had to trudge off the field against Bahrain due to an injury. But he has done enough to leave an imprint.

The inspirational figure for young Kerala footballers has vacated his place 'so that youngsters can get their chance' but be rest assured, Anas Ikka will continue to be an inspiration.