Ashique Kuruniyan reveals Anas Edathodika’s influence on his career

India international Ashique Kuruniyan has made 44 appearances in the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) over the last three seasons. Prior to his move to Bengaluru FC, Kuruniyan appeared 26 times in the Hero ISL with FC Pune City before sealing a dream move to the 2018-19 champions. While in conversation with Anant Tyagi during the latest episode of Let’s Football Live, Ashique revealed how defender Anas Edathodika helped him get his first big break in Indian football.

“I was in Delhi where I went to play the U-19 Hero I-League. After the match, I called Babu Ekka, (manager of my Kerala Sevens team) who had spoken to Anas and set up a trial at the Pune FC academy for me. That was the turning point of my football career. I had never met Anas, but I had heard a lot about him. He was the captain of Pune FC then, so I respected him a lot,” the 23-year-old said.

After joining the Pune academy in 2015, Ashique was loaned out to Spanish club Villareal’s C team the following year and he credited his former club for his European adventure. “After signing for the club, the management informed me that they had sent a video to Villareal and the club were interested in me. ‘If you do well, you could play there for a few years, but I could return to the club whenever I wanted to,’ they said. At first, I was hesitant, but then they explained the benefits of going abroad,” he shared.

‘Have always wanted to play for Bengaluru FC’

However, Ashique had his sights set on only one club from the beginning and his fine performances across two Hero ISL campaigns with FC Pune City were rewarded with a move to Bengaluru FC. The 23-year-old hopes to remain with the Blues in the years to come having joined the club on a three-year contract ahead of Hero ISL 2019-20.

“Since 2015, I have always wanted to play for Bengaluru FC, even when they were in the Hero I-League. When I got the chance to leave FC Pune City, my first option was Bengaluru FC. I have a three-year contract at the club and if the club wants me then I will stay for as long as they want me to,” Ashique said.

More familiar with his teammates now having spent a season with Bengaluru, Ashique compared them to ‘superheroes’. “Sunil (Chhetri) and Gurpreet (Singh Sandhu) bhai are among the best players in the country currently. Rahul (Bheke) is my favourite defender as well. I look at these players like my superheroes, because once they come outside the dressing room, their entire persona changes. I feel lucky that I am getting a chance to play with them and share a dressing room with them,” he said.

He went on to elaborate on the influence that Bengaluru custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu has on the team. “Gurpreet pajji is like a friend to everyone in the team. He is the team leader who talks to everyone, gives them motivation. Before every match he gives a lot of advice as well. He shouts if we do not listen to him as well,” Ashique said.

A part of India’s 2018 SAFF Championship and the 2019 AFC Asian Cup squads, Ashique now features regularly for the Blue Tigers and believes that the emergence of several young talents from the Hero ISL has benefitted the national team. “As we all know, the national team is improving day by day. There are many emerging young players currently and I think that we can do well in the qualifiers and for that we need the support of the fans. We have a lot of supporters already, but we hope that the support increases so that we can make the country proud,” he shared.

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