Pune FC midfielder Arata makes to National squad
Pune, Jan 29 (IBNS): Arata Izumi the 30-year-old on Tuesday, became the first person of Indian origin (PIO) to earn the nod on the National squad after he fulfilled norms laid down by the sports ministry when he obtained an Indian passport in August 2012.
The selection fulfilled Arata's long cherished dream of playing on a National team shortlisted for the forthcoming International Friendly against Palestine.
The match is scheduled for Feb 6, 2013 in Kochi.
The National call up is a first for Arata at any level after being eligible to represent Japan.
Arata quest as a professional career began in 2005 before moving to the sub-continent and plying his trade since the 2006-2007 season.
Arata's association with Pune FC began in 2009-10 when he was signed as a PIO as per norms of the National association.
Subsequently, he represented the club as an Asian player (when the rule was changed). Arata sought an Indian passport in his fourth season at Pune FC which made him eligible to play for India.
His first match as an Indian citizen was against Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in the 125th Durand Cup at New Delhi on Aug 23.
"This (selection) was always something I dreamt of the moment I received my Indian passport," said Arata.
While donning the India colours is his next dream, Arata for now thanks all who made his dream. "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."
Apart from Arata, Pune FC left-wing back Gurjinder Kumar has been named by National Head Coach Wim Kovermans in the 23-man squad.
Gurjinder returns to the national team after almost a year. He made his debut on Feb 23, 2012 during the friendly international against Oman which India lost a 1-5.
The game was a preparation for India's ahead of the AFC Challenge Cup 2012, which Gurjinder was omitted.
Thereafter, Gurjinder was called up for the 2012 Nehru Cup camp, but again was not in the final squad for the tournament.
"It's a great feeling to be on the radar once again. It's a friendly match and I am looking forward to playing. I am ready and ready to put out my best," Gurjinder informed.
Looking back, Gurjinder felt it was disappointing to be left out but added that Coach Derrick Pereira was very encouraging.
"When I returned from the camp (Nehru Cup) I did feel down, but back in Pune I got support from Coach who told me to work hard. He was motivating and coupled with hard work I aimed at getting back."
Meanwhile, striker Jeje Lalpekhlua also returns to the India camp after a year-long absence. Jeje has been named in the stand-by list for the game in Kochi.
Jeje's last appearance for the Seniors was during the an exhibition match against German giants Bayern Munich. His last competitive game was in the 2011 SAFF Cup.
Pune FC coach Derrick Pereira said, "I am happy for Arata and wish him all the luck to be a successful Indian footballer for years to come. He is a hard worker on the pitch. A special word for Gurjinder who worked equally hard to get back and so had Jeje."