CHENNAI: It’s been a hell of a 12 months for Arjun Tudu. Last year, when ISL franchises were auctioning and drafting domestic players, Tudu was but an insignificant speck on the Indian football map — one of the countless ones toiling thanklessly in non-league tournaments. Things changed when national coach Stephen Constantine called the Army player for the national camp prior to the SAFF Championships. After top-scoring in this year’s Santosh Trophy, the 25-year-old, who has never played for an I-League club, finds himself training alongside Gianluca Zambrotta and Florent Malouda.
For Tudu, it is the fulfilment of a dream — to appear on television. “Since I got acquainted with the I-League on TV, even I dreamt about playing and getting featured on TV,” Tudu told Express. “I never thought that I’d be contacted by an ISL club but after the national camp, I had my eyes on it. My goal has always been to take the next step, so when I was contacted by an ISL club, I felt I had achieved something.”
He revealed that he was home on holiday when Delhi Dynamos contacted him. “When I got the call from Brig. Dhillon, I was on holiday. He asked me to come over the next day,” he said.
And nobody was happier than his father, himself an amateur player, whose boots he used to borrow when he started out. “That was one of the best moments to see my father overwhelmed,” Tudu said. “He was next to me when I got the call and I could see how proud he was of what I had achieved.”
The step up from the Army camp to Dynamos’ training camp in Sweden was not easy for Tudu, who initially struggled to adapt to the unfamiliar climate. “Initially, in the first two days it was a little hard to adjust but it was a dream to be playing in Europe. I suffered from a slight breathing problem in the first two days but after that it was fabulous,” he said.
And the Bihar youngster feels that his rise is proof that the Santosh Trophy, once the most important tournament in the country, should not be ignored. “The Santosh Trophy has a few rules which doesn’t allow players participating in I-League play. The standard drops because of this,” he said. “But, there are a lot of good players who participate, I’m sure if there were better scouts there would be more and more players like me emerging from the Santosh Trophy and will only increase the importance of the competition.”