It is safe to say that this is the latest peak in the rise of Anas Edathodika, a Rs 41 lakh-worth Indian Super League footballer who had earlier thought of quitting his career as money appeared hard to come by. But he is now a star in his own right after being one of just 10 Indian players in the ISL auctions.
The new Delhi Dynamos central defender, who had worked both as a bus conductor and an autorickshaw driver during difficult times in life, may now be able to relish a mouth-watering prospect many in the country could only dream of - to train and play with Brazilian legend Roberto Carlos, come October.
“Who would have thought one day I would be training with Roberto? It is a different feeling altogether, absolutely unbelievable! I do pinch myself to believe that I have really arrived at this stage. There is enough fame and publicity. It is a good time being a footballer in India,” he says of his achievement.
Anas’ journey to a mature footballer has been one of the hallmarks of his career.
Having been born in a financially backward family, he could not have even imagined a gilded life that he is now leading. But he scripted his own story — from being an auto driver to one of the most wanted footballers in the country.
His father, a taxi driver who was caught between the struggles of running a family and a battle against his own ailing body, was largely absent in Anas’ early years as a footballer, and so it was left to his teacher Ajmal Arimbra to look after his football development.
“I used to play a lot as a child, but was never really serious about building a career. I was in Class X when Ajmal urged me to play football for the school team. He is a big supporter of mine and really believed in my ability,” says Anas, who captains Pune FC in the I-League.
He joined EMEA College, Kondotty, as a bachelor’s student in 2006 and began playing for the college team, earning a spot in the under-20 Kerala team that year. “I was kind of starting to find my feet in football. It was a good beginning. I made use of the chance to leave an impact,” says the strapping defender.
However, his big break came in another inter-collegiate football tournament. Anas’ talent was spotted by Feroz Sherif, a former international goalkeeper, who asked the emerging centre-defender to attend a selection trial for Mumbai FC. And it was there that he was given a year's deal with the I-League second division side.
“I signed a three-year contract with Blue and Yellows in 2007-08. Having played there until 2011, I made my switch to Pune FC, where I have spent the best years of my career. I matured as a footballer there,” explains Anas, who has 150 club appearances, scoring once.
“ISL will be a grand beginning for me. I hope I can play as expected of me for the Dynamos. I am just thinking of the future benefit of playing in the brand new league in India. Let this be an inspiration to all footballers who are fed up of plying their trade with very little returns. Let them aim big,” Anas signs off.