Arata Izumi was born to a Japanese mother and an Indian father. Although he originally had an Indian birth certificate, after his parents separated, he became a Japanese citizen. Being Japanese means that he could not be selected to play on the Indian football team.
He is the first foreign national that has been selected for the Indian football team, although he did have to give up his Japanese citizenship first, and he also had to get an Indian passport. Izumi, the Pune FC Midfielder, got his new passport in August, and then was selected for the India squad that will be playing an international friendly football game that will take place in Kochi on 6th February.
Arata is no unknown in India, since he has already played on East Bengal’s foreign circuit, after which he played for Mahindra United, and then he went to Pune FC, when the coach, Derek Pereira also made the same move. It was during Arata’s fourth season at Pune FC, when he decided it was time to get an Indian passport, which would help him to be eligible to play for India internationally.
Not only did Arata take on an Indian passport, he also took on an Indian name, Neelkanth Khambholja. Along with these changes, it should be noted that he is also married to an Indian woman, Shweta Manerikar.
After becoming one of the members of the 23 man football squad, he said: “This (selection) was always something I dreamt of the moment I received my Indian passport.”
He added: “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.”
Arata still dreams of wearing the Indian colors, and as things stand, there is a chance that this dream will also come true for him.