Midfielder Anirudh Thapa on Friday credited Indian football team coach Igor Stimac for his composure on the field.
The 21-year-old has been a vital part in Stimac’s scheme of things and is turning out be a midfield linchpin in the team.
Thapa, who was part of both of India’s World Cup qualifiers – against Oman (at home) and against (Qatar), is set to play a pivotal role as India take on Bangladesh on October 15 at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata.
“Playing under Stimac has changed me a lot. He teaches us a lot of new style of football. He is sharing his experiences and from that we are learning a lot of things,” Thapa, who is currently in Guwahati with the Indian team in a preparatory camp, told IANS.
“For me personally, I am getting more composed and calm under him. We are learning a new style of football which is helping us,” he added.
The Chennaiyin FC player, who predominantly featured in the number 8 position under the Croatian’s possession-based style of football, said that there is a competition for places within the team and hence, he does not take anything for granted.
“We have great technical players here who have great abilities, so it is difficult for me as I have to fight for my position. It’s not easy for me. In every position, we have 3-4 players who can easily play with same ability. I need to give my best everyday and learn whatever he is teaching us and from other players’ style,” said Thapa.
While India narrowly lost against Oman, they held Qatar to a goalless draw. However, the team, which is yet to register a win, is currently placed fourth in the five-side points table. Thapa spoke about the challenges ahead.
“After the Qatar match, our confidence was high. It was not easy to hold them for 90 minutes, that too in their own backyard,” said Thapa.
“Bangladesh match will also be a difficult match for us as they are not an easy team. We are approaching the game in a different way. We need three points,” said Thapa who won the Indian Super League with Chennaiyin in 2017-18 and was voted the emerging All India Football Federation (AIFF) player of the year last year,” he continued.
“They will approach in the same way, they also will want to win. So it will be a difficult match for us. We need be more focussed and more creative. We need to score early goals and that’s what will make the difference,” he added.
Thapa also discussed about his rapid rise and how being a part of the AIFF academy helped him. The youngster also spoke about how playing alongside Sunil Chhetri has been a dream for him.
“It was a great journey, At the age of 15, I was with the AIFF academy. It made me learn a lot of new things. At that age, people are figuring out what to do in their lives and I had my goal,” said Thapa.
“I learnt a lot of things there, groomed myself. AIFF helped me a lot. I got so many opportunities. The club I am in right now. The pressure I can take, as I was with the national team from that age.”
“It is like a dream for me. I never thought it would happen for a boy like me. He is one of the top 10 goalscorers in the world and that is not easy. We belong to a country where football is not famous and person sitting next to you has done it. It’s a big thing and sharing the dressing room… I don’t have words to explain his greatness. It is a big thing for me as a 21 year old boy who has seen him on TV while growing up,” concluded Thapa.