Professional football leagues all over the world consist of a mix of both domestic and foreign players, which improves the quality of the game and serves as an opportunity for players to seek new challenges and make themselves known.The Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and Bundesliga are some of the most famous leagues in the world and have several foreign players who have raised the profile of the league and contributed immensely to their team’s cause. Similarly, there have been many imports in Indian football, who have shone for their clubs and carved out a name for themselves.Let’s take a look at the top 5 foreign players to have played in the I-League!
#5 Arata Izumi - Japan/India
Born to an Indian father and Japanese mother, Izumi became the first foreign national to play for India after he obtained an Indian passport in August 2012. The midfielder, who can play on either wing, started out with a Singaporean club, and then moved to his native country in 2006 to play for Mitsubishi Mizushima.
He then moved to India and signed for Kolkata Giants, East Bengal, in November 2006. He had a decent debut season ending up with 1 goal and 10 assists in the 14 games he played. He was then signed by Mahindra United, where he stayed for two seasons, winning the Durand Cup in the process.
In what he labels as the turning point of his career, Izumi joined newly-promoted Pune FC in 2009 and finished with 10 goals and 10 assists in 26 league games, with an additional 6 goals in cup matches. He finished the season as the highest scoring midfielder in the I-League winning the ‘Pune FC Man of Steel’ award, as the club finished in third position in their first season in the top flight.
He is currently the captain of Pune FC and has amassed 129 appearances for the team, scoring 25 goals. He is known for his dazzling runs and quick feet along with a sharp tactical mind and positional awareness, which has helped him succeed and perform at such a consistent level over half a decade.
He also has 9 caps for the Indian national team, as he made his debut in 2013, after coming on as a substitute in a 4-2 loss versus Palestine.