The journey has been amazing: Anirudh Thapa on his time with Chennaiyin FC
Since the inception of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL), a lot of young Indian players have made a name for themselves and gone on to achieve their dreams of becoming professional football players. However, very few have gone on to scale heights like Chennaiyin FC midfielder Anirudh Thapa.
Born on January 15, 1998, Thapa began his career wih St.Stephen's Academy in Chandigardh before moving to the AIFF Elite Academy. Thapa made his professional debut for Hero ISL side Chennaiyin FC in the 2016 season. The 25-year-old has remained faithful to the Marina Machans and is one of the very few players to still be at the club after seven years.
Thapa has come a long way from being a young prodigy at the club to being named captain ahead of the Hero ISL 2021-22 season. The midfielder has made 98 appearances for Chennaiyin FC in the Hero ISL.
"I have been playing for Chennaiyin FC since 2016 as a centre midfielder and the journey has been amazing," Thapa said while speaking to indiansuperleague.com.
"Football, I think for me, is everything. My life, my career because football is what I breathe now. When I get it's football, I sleep with football," Thapa added.
From making one appearance in the first season to leading the side in his seventh season with the club, Thapa has done it all. He won the Hero ISL trophy with the Marina Machans in the 2017-18 season, while helping the team reach the second Hero ISL final during the 2019-20 season.
"I think he's a massive player, a huge player for Chennaiyin FC. Just closely watch Anirudh Thapa on the pitch, he's constantly talking to the players and making sure everything is going according to what the coach wants. So, I think he's a big, big player for Chennaiyin FC," stated former player and commentator Darren Caldeira.
Thapa has been a regular in the national team set-up since the age of 17. He has represented the U17s, U19s, and U23s and now he's part of the Indian senior national team under head coach Igor Stimac. The midfielder was also part of India's SAFF Championship triumph in 2021. Thapa was rewarded for his performances for the club and the country as he was adjudged the AIFF's Men Emerging Footballer of the Year in 2017-18 and 2019-20.
This season, Chennaiyin FC skipper missed most of the first half of the season with an injury. Thapa has worked his way back in the team and now has been playing in an advanced miffield role under head coach Thomas Brdaric.
"I love his style. He should also try to improve every day and in each game, how he can be the best player. He's a special player with extraordinary abilities," Chennaiyin FC head coach Thomas Brdaric expressed.
The midfielder is known for his tenacity and endurance in the midfield. Different managers have come and left the club, but Thapa has always been one of the first names on the team sheet under every head coach.
"He's still got a lot more to offer. He's definitely got a lot more goals in the locker. He's somebody who always wants to learn, wants to improve and there's no limit for Anirudh Thapa at the moment. He can get even better, he's a quality player right now for the club and the country and he can do better," Caldeira added.
Hero ISL anchor and commentator Anant Tyagi says: "Broad shoulders with which he carries the hope of Chennaiyin FC, I feel like he's got everything in him that sounds like he could be a really good leader going forward. Don't go by his size, go by his stature that he has in Indian football and with Chennaiyin FC."
Thapa has a lot of firepower in his arsenal. Be it the midfielder's lung-bursting runs in the box, making accurate passes, or putting in crunching tackles at the right time, Thapa has got them all.
"He has the vision, has the capability, can pick the pass, has those runs in him and has the ability to score as we saw last season, as he scored the opening goal of the season. So, he has got the game and we're gonna see that from Anirudh Thapa this season," mentioned commentator Paul Masefield.
Thapa knows what it feels like to be a Hero ISL champion and the Chennaiyin FC captain looks motivated to lead the team for another successful season.
"The main target is to reach the top six, because that's the team goal and it's a team sport. So I think that's one of the first targets that we have in our minds," Thapa said.