It will be a homecoming of sorts for India midfielder Arata Izumi when he starts his journey with his new team – FC Pune City – in the third season of the Indian Super League (ISL) on Monday.
The half-Japanese, half-Indian footballer was a revelation for Atletico de Kolkata (ATK) last season, and he played a big role in taking his team to the semi-finals. His five goals in 11 appearances saw him finish eighth on the overall scoring chart and third among the Indians, behind Mumbai City FC’s Sunil Chhetri (seven goals) and Chennaiyin FC’s Jeje Lalpekhlua (six goals).
However, he was not retained by ATK at the end of the season and the 34-year-old is making a return to the city where he has spent the majority of his club career, playing for Pune FC in the I-League.
Izumi was one of the most celebrated footballers of the now disbanded Pune FC and the fans will surely be excited to have him back in the city. Talking about his new team, Izumi said, “We have a fabulous mix of players and we are determined to give our 100% for the club. The coach and support staff are ensuring that our intents are matched with solid efforts from their side.”
The footballer was born in Yamaguchi, Japan, to an Indian father and a Japanese mother, but it was not before 2006 that he first came to India. After playing for Albirex Niigata, Singapore FC and the Mitsubishi Mizushima FC in Japan, he joined East Bengal in 2006, starting a journey which made him the first foreign-born player to represent India in an international match.
However, his introduction to Indian football was not that memorable. Izumi had a forgettable season with East Bengal and his next two seasons — with Mahindra United in Mumbai — saw him struggle with a number of injuries. But, it all changed when he joined Pune FC in 2009 and he became an integral part of team.
And after a string of consistent performances, he was selected for the national team. When Pune FC closed shop in 2015, he was signed by Atletico de Kolkata for the second season of the ISL and that is where he forged a successful partnership with Spanish coach Antonio Lopez Habas. Habas played a major role in developing Izumi’s game and the Spaniard was also a big reason behind his switch to Pune.
“Antonio joining FC Pune City made my decision easier to join the club. It’s always an honour to work with great coach like him. My experience with him at ATK was great and I want to continue playing in his style which is really effective and suits my style of play,” said Izumi.
During his time with Pune FC, Izumi picked up a fan following in Pune that few players in India can boast of and he will surely receive a hero’s welcome when he steps out at the Balewadi Stadium once again.