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.