Not often does opportunity knock twice. It has, however, for British-born Michael Chopra, who is eager to play for India after a failed attempt four years ago.
Indian law does not permit dual citizenship, which means all athletes turning out for the national teams must be Indian passport holders. Back in 2010, the former Newcastle striker had expressed his eagerness to represent India, but it did not happen because of the law.
On Thursday, the 30-year-old was around 7000 kilometres away in England when he was picked up by Sachin Tendulkar’s Kerala Blasters for the Indian Super League (ISL). Apart from pocketing a cool R35.13 lakh, the forward, who has also appeared for various England age-group teams, was the first to be picked up because of his rich experience in the English league and his Indian roots.
The Newcastle-born player’s impending visit to India for the ISL has reignited his desire to play for the country. So strong is his desire that he is ready to relinquish his British passport and become an Indian citizen.
Izumi Arata, the Japanese-born midfielder with Indian roots, is an example. The 32-year-old took the plunge, and plays in the national team.
“Yes, I’m ready to give up my British citizenship. If I have to give up my British passport to play, then so be it. I want to fulfil my career (ambitions) and in the years to come I want to tell my son about it. It would make me, my father and my family very proud,” Chopra told HT. “I was very disappointed when it did not work out in 2010. But perhaps the lack of success earlier has got me in this position today. Playing in India means everything.”
Chopra harbours great dreams for the country, apart from taking the field for the Men in Blue, his dream of playing for the England national team not having materialised. “India is well over 100 in the FIFA rankings and I want to bring it down. I also dream of India being at the World Cup one day.”
Playing in India will mark a fresh chapter in Chopra’s tumultuous life, which has also been marred by bankruptcy brought upon by addiction of gambling. “Now, I look back at how I was, I realised the mistakes I made and the negative impact it had. All of us face difficulties,” Chopra said. “Those days are behind me. If I am asked by anyone who is currently facing similar issues, I can be an example of someone who has come through it and is making something of his life.”