After a brief but impressive stint with the Indian national team, Anas Edathodika announced his retirement after his team's exit from the 2019 Asian Cup held in UAE. The Kerala-born defender feels he has left the team at the right time and hopes to see India at the FIFA World Cup soon.
"I feel very happy to be invited over here for the KIA football tournament as a Malayali player as there are many more Malayalis here. I'm proud to be invited as a guest at a prestigious tournament like this one and I am thankful for the same," Anas told Goal.
While the 2022 edition of the World Cup to be held in Qatar could be a long shot, the Anas is confident of India's footballing future at the global level. "I am confident about the (Indian) national team, especially the young and talented players, ahead of the (World Cup) qualifying rounds. I feel that India will hopefully qualify for the World Cup by 2026.
"Qatar's national team has improved a lot and so have our U-19 and U-23 teams. Our U-23 team were very competitive against Qatar despite losing by a goal. There is a lot of importance given to football in Qatar with world-class facilities. A lot of good players like Samuel Eto'o, Raul and Xavi are also promoting football here. With a lot of Indians working here, especially Malayalis, a lot of businessmen are also supporting the cause through sponsorship."
The 32-year-old centre-back knows what it is like to play in the I-League and the Indian Super League (ISL), the two professional leagues in India. He climbed up the ranks with Pune FC, played for Mohun Bagan and later made his mark in the ISL with Delhi Dynamos and is currently playing for Kerala Blasters.
"Both leagues are very good. I-League was a very important part of my career and I will never forget that, though there are more fans in the ISL. There has been a lot of more budding talent because of the ISL. There have been a lot of emerging players in the ISL. Because there is not enough coverage for the I-League, it has been going on in the same way. ISL gets more telecast which is why it gets more fame and top quality players from abroad."
Despite a sub-par season for his club in the ISL, Kerala-born midfielder Sahal Samad announced his arrival as a first-choice player at Kerala Blasters. The Kerala-based team has also roped in Rahul KP, another one of the state's hot prospects. With Ashique Kuruniyan of Pune City and Arjun Jayaraj of Gokulam Kerala also doing their bit to impress, Anas feels it won't be long before they get featured for India.
"They are already good players. Rahul is a very good player and Sahal has improved a lot in the last season. Rahul has gained quite a bit of experience after playing in the (U-17) World Cup. Sahal has improved a lot in two years. Ashique Kuruniyan is also a much better player now, physically and technically very good. Arjun Jayaraj of Gokulam Kerala too. There are a lot of talented players emerging from Kerala and they will contribute towards Indian football."
Anas' composure and intelligence in the defensive third will be missed but the Keralite believes the Indian defence is secure with Sandesh Jhingan at its heart and a lot of able defensive partners available to choose from.
"There are many good defenders in the Indian team. (Salam) Ranjan is playing well. (Anwar) Ali is a young player. Subhasish (Bose) is a left back but he can play as a centre-back. There are other players like Sana (Chinglensana Singh) and the players from the India U-19 team also. Rahul Bheke has also played quite well if he is called up to the national team. So there are a lot of options."