India defender Anas Edathodika on Tuesday announced his retirement from international football following India’s heartbreaking exit from the Asian Cup a day earlier.

The centre-back played all of two minutes against Bahrain before being substituted by Salam Ranjan Singh after picking up an injury. Anas’ decision comes on the back of coach Stephen Constantine also quitting the national team.

In a detailed, emotional post on Facebook, Anas said that hanging up his boots from international football was a “very hard decision”, and that he felt the time was right for a younger defender to take his place. Teammates Sandesh Jhingan, who is also his teammate at Indian Super League side Kerala Blasters, and Jeje Lalpekhlua were singled out for praise.

Anas, 31, earned his break with the Blue Tigers quite late in his career but has been a constant in Constantine’s side, which steadily made strides in the Fifa rankings over the last three years. Overall, Anas earned 19 caps. Here’s is the Malappuram-born defender’s statement:

It comes with a very heavy heart today to announce my retirement from Indian national football team. It’s been a very hard decision to take and accept. I love to play more years at my best, but I think it’s the time to step down and give opportunities to youngsters who can perform better.

It took 11 years to break into the national team and playing for the national team is the top achievement in my career; although the journey was short. Each and every time I tried to give more than 100 percent for the team. I was so disappointed to pick up an injury in the opening minutes and it will hurt me forever.

I just want to say a huge thanks to the coach Stephen Constantine for believing in me and giving me the opportunity and I wish you good luck for the future. Also thanks to all the coaching staffs, teammates, the fans and who all have supported me throughout my journey for the national team. I have been blessed to play for my country, with some of the best players. My heart will forever embrace the feeling of walking through the tunnel and out onto the field donning the national jersey with my brothers. 

Sandesh Jhingan, we had a good partnership in guarding the central defence, it was an emotion playing with you, brother. Jeje, Trust me, you’re the best room partner I ever had and I’ll miss all these. I wish you all good luck and keep making our nation proud. These memories will stay with me forever,