Arata Izumi: 'Neroca project great for Indian football'

Former Atletico de Kolkata (ATK) and Pune FC star Arata Izumi, who joined I-League second division club Neroca FC, in a decision that came as a surprise to most Indian football fans, said the club's 'promising plans' for the future convinced him to join the side.

The box-to-box midfielder has a wealth of experience in Indian football having played for East Bengal, Mahindra United, Pune FC, ATK, Mumbai FC and FC Pune City.   -  ISL/Sportzpics

Former Atletico de Kolkata (ATK) and Pune FC star Arata Izumi, who joined I-League second division club Neroca FC, in a decision that came as a surprise to most Indian football fans, said the club's 'promising plans' for the future convinced him to join the side.

"I made this decision after talking with the management of Neroca and the coach. It will be one great challenge for me because the club is like a dream of everyone from the State of Manipur. They (the club) are trying to make things happen for the people the club represents. I like how they think about football. I like their attachment with the people," said the 34-year-old Japanese-born midfielder.

Neroca FC had made a bid for a place in the I-League top-division this season but AIFF rejected it after the club failed to satisfy the financial criteria. Based out of Manipur, a State known for its passion for football, Naroca will be hoping for a strong performance in its inaugural season in the national league second-division and Izumi sees this as a great opportunity to learn more about Indian football.

"I've been here in India for ten years now. I need to know more if I want to be more involved in Indian football even after my playing career, so it is a great chance for me to see and feel how it actually is," said Izumi.

The box-to-box midfielder, who has a wealth of experience in Indian football having played for East Bengal, Mahindra United, Pune FC, ATK, Mumbai FC and FC Pune City, confirmed he has no coaching role in his mind at Neroca though.

"I'm here as a player but I hope my experience can help some young players," he said.

A lot of players who made a mark in the recently-concluded Indian Super League (ISL), including final-hero Jewel Raja, are yet to find a place in the 10 teams in the I-League top-division, but Izumi refused to blame the lack of teams as the only reason for it.

"It is true that a lot of ISL players don't have I-League clubs. But it's also a personal choice. Some players might have other commitment, some related to football and some not, or they might be recovering from injuries and improving fitness," said Izumi.

Indian football has been devoured by confusion in the past few months with the future of I-League still in doubt. The midfielder, though, is optimistic.

"It is very difficult for everyone to predict what will happen next in Indian football. But Rome was not built in a day. Yes, there is chaos. Yes, some players are suffering. It will take a lot of time and effort to improve the Indian football.

"But this change is something we need. In fact, after ISL started, the awareness of the game has improved drastically. This moment is a turning point for Indian football, and there will always be some sacrifices. But it is important that all stakeholders of the game work towards the same goal," concluded Izumi.

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