8. Arata Izumi

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Arata Izumi is one of the poster boys of Pune FC and the I-League. Born in the Japanese city of Yamaguchi, this Japanese player of Indian origin is the son of an Indian father and a Japanese mom.

This thirty one year old veteran can not only play anywhere in the midfield but also on either flank or as a second striker or even as an out and out striker. Izumi’s talent shimmers brightly as he brings to the table, traits rarely seen in Indian football.

Quick feet, dazzling runs down the channels, dummy runs to draw defenders away and great positional awareness to keep track of both his opponents’ and teammates’ movements to receive or distribute passes with equal felicity. The fact that he possesses a keen eye for goal and times his runs into the box to perfection doesn’t hurt either!

Izumi hadn’t kicked a football till he was 9 years of age, and the first time he ever kicked a ball it was a thunderous shot which went in straight from the post. Since then, he hasn’t looked back!

He started his professional career in 2005 with Albirex Niigata Singapore of the Singapore League and helped his team to achieve a 5th place finish that season. In 2006, Arata joined Mitsubishi Motors Mizushima F.C. of the Japan Football League, where he worked from 5 in the morning to 6 in the evening and trained for a couple of hours after that. In 24 appearances that season, he finished with very impressive statistics as he scored 7 goals and assisted 7 more.

In November 2006, the flamboyant Arata signed for East Bengal and contributed 10 assists and 1 goal in his debut season. The playmaker then spent two seasons at Mahindra United where he scored 2 and assisted 7 in 24 games and also won the Durand Cup.

Izumi, in what he labels as the turning point of his career, joined Pune FC in 2009. In his debut season at the club, in addition to 6 cup goals, he finished with 10 goals and 10 assists in 26 games, a phenomenal return!

Not only was he the top goal scorer among all midfielders, but he also deservedly won the ‘Pune FC Man of Steel’ award for the season. He also holds the unique distinction of scoring the club’s first ever goal in the Federation Cup.

He continued his dazzling form in the 2010-11 season where he accrued 6 goals and 9 assists in 24 games to again finish as the second best goal scorer for Pune FC for the season. By his high standards, he had a subdued 2011-12 season though he won the UAPF Award recognizing a players’ contribution to the community through football.

In the 2012-13 season, Arata netted 5 times as he finished joint 3rd top scorer and guided the team to an all-time high 2nd position in the I-League. An immensely popular figure among the fans, Arata claimed the ‘Fan’s Player of the Year’ award for the 2012-13 season.

Now in his 5th season at the club, Arata made history when he was granted Indian citizenship and became the first-ever person of Indian origin to represent India in any sport when he made his debut against Palestine in a friendly. Since then, he has gone on to play for the Indian national team in the AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers as well as the SAFF Championship 2013.

Interestingly Arata Izumi who has now made over a 100 appearances for the club is a Chelsea fan who idolises the midfield maestro Paul Scholes.


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