Indian-origin footballers plying their trade elsewhere is no more a striking phenomenon and has become quite a routine in the football world. Last year, when the Indian football team lost to minnows Guam, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) had contemplated a move of bringing back the Indian-origin footballers playing elsewhere. Although that was a knee-jerk reaction and nothing materialised thereafter, this move threw up a plethora of names who have been doing quite well in other places.
However, there are a handful such players who have gone the full nine yards and have represented a different country altogether. The very recent example was the Wales international footballer Neil Taylor. During the Euro 2016, his Calcutta connections were unearthed and caused a sensation back in India.
Here we take a look at countries which have featured the most number of Indian origin players.
Luciano Narsingh – 16 caps
Luciano started his football career at the world famous Ajax academy and soon joined Heerenveen at a tender age of 16. He played four seasons there and got the world to sit up and take notice with his riveting performances in the flanks. With generous gifts of speed, dribbling, and ability to deliver good crosses, Narsingh soon made the move to greener pastures in the form of PSV Eindhoven.
At PSV, he won two league titles and played at the top level of the European stage. Soon thereafter, he made the move to the Premier League and currently plays for Premier League club Swansea. Narsingh scored his first international goal in a 4–2 defeat to Belgium on 15 August 2012.
He was involved in the Netherlands' qualification for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, scoring once and giving three assists in four games.
Aron Winter – 84 caps
Defensive midfielder Aron Winter, who notched 84 caps for the national side, also enjoyed a sparkling career at big-name clubs as Ajax, Lazio and then Inter Milan. Born in the Surinamese capital Paramaribo, Winter carried the unusual legacy of being a few Surinamese player with a Hindustani descent. In a country whose footballers have vastly originated from the African ethnicity (like Patrick Kluivert and Ruud Gullit), Winter was the name who stood out with his Indian descent.
He was of Hindustani descent, making him the greatest player that India never produced. The earliest of the De Toekomst alumni to feature in this team, Winter won a solitary Eredivisie title before leaving Ajax in 1992 for Lazio, where he had to hide his Jewish background from notoriously far-right Biancocelesti ultras. He then moved on to Inter, where he won the 1997/98 UEFA Cup in the season leading up to the World Cup in France.
Thomas Austin Pereira – 8 caps
Thomas Austin Pereira was Norwegian international who spent most of his career at Viking in the Norwegian Premier League. He is of Goan descent and could've been eligible to represent India had he not played for Norway.
He made his international debut for Norway against South Korea and had eight senior international caps. Pereira is among two Indian-origin players to have played for Norway in international football.
Harmeet Singh – 7 caps
Born to Punjabi parents living in Oslo, Harmeet Singh joined Valerenga as a youngster at the age of 13. The midfielder made his debut for the Valerenga senior team in 2008 and never looked back going on to make 101 appearances for them in five years.
He was part of the team when they played Pep Guardiola's Barcelona in a friendly, where the Spanish coach was very impressed by Harmeet's play. Singh then got the big break of his career, as he was signed by Dutch giants Feyenoord. Though he didn't excel, he played for them for two years, playing seven times in the league.
Currently playing with Norwegian champions Molde, the 26-year-old has played for the Norwegian national team on seven occasions.
Rhys Williams – 14 caps
Moving on to the eastern side of the world, Rhys Williams is an Australian national who has been playing for the Socceroos since 2009. The 28-year-old’s mother is from Mumbai while his father was born in Kent in England. He was, therefore, eligible to play for India in international football but chose not to.
Williams currently plays for Australian A-League side Perth Glory. In 2004, he began his career in England where he made numerous appearances for clubs like Middlesbrough, Burnley and Charlton Athletic. He also captained the Boro for a brief period before injury problems took a toll.
Nikolai David Topor-Stanley – 4 caps
A left full-back by trade, Nikolai David Topor-Stanley is an Australian football player was born to a Mauritian-Indian father and a Polish-German mother, making him eligible to represent multiple countries at international level.
In March 2008, Topor-Stanley made his international debut against Singapore. Known to his fans as "Hyphen", he was the most capped Australian Under-23 player who represented the Socceroos at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. In 2014, he came back into the national team fold after a gap of almost six years.
Neil Taylor – 39 caps
Of all the names, Neil Taylor has the most prolific beginning in the world of football. Born to a British father and an Indian mother, Taylor started his career with Manchester City but left them at the age of 15.
His best years came with Swansea City as he was part of the team that gained promotion to the Premier League and then established themselves as regulars in the division. After having played for the Swans for 5 years, he recently left them to join Aston Villa in the English Championship.
The left-back is an integral member of the Wales national team and played a crucial role in their sauntering run to the semifinals of Euro 2016.
Oscar Sonejee – 106 caps
Oscar Sonejee was born and brought up in Andorra. His parents had migrated to Spain from Delhi in search of better prospects. His father had first moved to Barcelona, but soon moved to Andorra and stayed on since then.
At 17, he had already played for Andorra in a 4-1 defeat against Estonia. His first international goal came against Latvia. At 18, he played against the heavyweights France in 1998 when the team was at its peak. It was probably the midfielder’s most cherished memories of marking the French maestro Zinedine Zidane.
He went on to score four goals for his country, of which the most important would be the one against Malta in 2000, earning his nation the first point in international football.
Rupesh Puna – 2 caps
Rupesh Puna has played for Caversham AFC, Otago United and currently plays for Waitakere United in the New Zealand Football Championship.
The right-back, who could also play as a left-back, made his full New Zealand debut against Iran in 2003. He ended his international career with only two international caps to his name.
Ofer Talker – 23 caps
Ofer Talker represented Israel in international football, but could also have been eligible to play for India. Talker was born in Ashdod, Israel. He won the Israeli Premier League and the Intertoto Cup while playing at Hapoel Haifa. He also played for Beitar Jerusalem for four years.
Talker made 23 appearances for the national side during his career, scoring just a solitary goal.
Prince Rajcomar – 9 caps
Another name who started off as a Netherlands footballer in the youth category but Prince Rajcomar later made his international debut for the island country of Curacao. Prince was part of the Netherlands squad for the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship.
In September 2014, Rajcomar was called up for the first time to the senior Curaçaoan national team, to take part in the Caribbean Cup qualification campaign. He scored his first goal against Puerto Rico.
Currently, the 32-year old striker plays for KFC Oosterzonen, a football club in the Belgian football amateur division.