THE BLOG BY CPD FOOTBALL | The World of Indian football and beyond by Chris Punnakkattu Daniel

Arata Izumi excited to be part of Team India

Arata Izumi - AIFF

Arata Izumi is the first foreign-born player to earn a call-up to the Indian national team. The Pune FC star will be part of the Indian squad scheduled to take on Palestine on February 6.

Arata was born to an Indian father and Japanese mother in the Japanese city of Shimonoseki. He started his started his professional football career with S-League club Albirex Niigata Singapore, a satellite team of J-League outfit Albirex Niigata.

The midfielder went on to play for Mitsubishi Mizushima, before he joined Kolkata giants East Bengal Club as a Player of Indian Origin (PIO). But he had difficulties to settle and continued his career with Mahindra United and finally Pune FC, whom he joined in 2009.

Signing a deal with PFC helped him to finally settle in India and he always recall the decision as the “turning point of his career”. Arata was able to impress with excellent performances for his club in the I-League and other competitions.

The Japanese midfielder made his mind last year and he took the decision to apply for the Indian citizenship. “It was one of the toughest decisions for me to accept Indian citizenship. I had to consider a lot of factors, and talk to a lot of people, but I finally made the decision and I am happy about it,” Arata told the Press Trust of India (PTI).

“It’s been a tough process, an anxious wait and a decision that took a lot of thought. But I guess the wait was worth it all,” he was quoted saying by PTI.

Arata received his Indian citizenship on August 24, 2012 and he has also obtained the Indian name Neelkanth Khambholja. His good performances for Pune FC has earned him a debut call-up to India coach Wim Koeverman’s squad for the friendly match against Palestine at Kochi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

“I am very excited to be a part of the national set up. It was one of the biggest reasons to come and play in India and I am really glad it has happened,” Arata said. “The selection was always something I dreamt of the moment I received my Indian passport.”

The India v Palestine match will be the first match in Kerala after a gap of almost nine years [+ read more]. The friendly match is scheduled to kick-off at 18.30 IST / 14.00 CET / 13.00 GMT.

The ticket sales are really promising according to sources in the Kerala Football Association and the Indian team may expect an excellent crowd to support them against the visitors from Palestine.