‘I’m an Indian,
Arata Izumi, the first foreign-born player in the Indian soccer team, speaks to
but my Japanese tastes remain’
Bikash Mohapatra about his career choices and more
Born in Japan, to an Indian father, Arata Izumi joined East Bengal in 2006. He also played for the now defunct Mahindra
United club before joining Pune FC, the club he
has been part of since 2009.
Last year Izumi took up Indian citizenship and
became the first foreign-born player to get a
He was recently named in India’s 23-man squad
for the friendly against Palestine in Kochi.
Tell us something about your introduction to
I started playing soccer at the age of nine. First,
my elder brother started playing and I just followed him. Till that point I didn’t know much
about soccer. I knew only baseball and swimming.
The first time I hit the ball, it happened to be a
shooting practice. My shot was a good one and
went into the goal and people around me
applauded. Then I started to practice every day
and that is how my soccer life started.
What is it about the game, in particular, that you
like so much?
It’s a team sport. And any team sport is beautiful. There are 11 players, each with a different
imagination. But once they get used to playing
together, they play as one unit. At that moment it
becomes an art. I think this is the most important
aspect of soccer.
You started your career in Japan. You could have
got more opportunities and recognition there. Did
it, at any point, occur to you to further your career
Yeah, that’s true. But, honestly, it wasn’t that
smooth for me. I started playing in Japan, and
played some professional soccer. But, after that, I
shifted to Singapore.
And when I was playing in Singapore, I found
out another way to enjoy this life. Being a foreigner, playing professional soccer in another
country, you get much more attention than you
would get in Japan, where you are one among
And I thought moving out might be a good
experience for me. I mean, the soccer career is
maybe for 10-12 or maximum 15 years.
But what after that? Some might become
coaches, some might take to commentary. I
thought about it and decided if I have this kind of
experience, staying abroad, meeting new people
and learning their language that might help me
in the long term. So I decided to play abroad.
How did a move to India happen?
When I was playing in Singapore, you know there are a
lot of Indians in that country, one of them was into soccer
and he spoke to me regarding playing in India.
Initially, I didn’t know anything about Indian soccer. But
slowly I started to get information about it.
You have been in India for about seven years and played
for three clubs. What changes have you noticed in Indian
soccer during that period?
There wasn’t much professionalism back then. But, in
these six, seven years, I can see a lot of improvement. FIFA
organization, to make a gradual transition
from grassroots to a professional level.
BIKASH MOHAPATRA/REDIFF. COM
is also doing a lot to improve the standard of Indian soccer.
Some clubs, I would say, are at par with the Japanese clubs.
Of course, the facilities need to improve a lot, but I feel
Indian soccer is developing a lot.
When it comes to big events, like the Asian
Championships, Indian clubs don’t figure prominently.
What is the reason?
It takes a lot of time to catch up with the level of soccer.
What India is doing right now, Japan did 15 years ago, to
try and get the facility on track and then ensure proper