Intelligent movement, lethal finishing and tireless running are the characteristics of an excellent attacking midfielder in football. In the recent season of the Indian Super League, Japanese-born Arata Izumi showed exactly these skills and justified the hefty Rs. 68 lakhs that Atletico de Kolkata paid in the ISL auction to secure his services. He scored five goals in 11 appearances and helped guide his team to the semi-finals.
Izumi, who was the captain of the now disbanded I-League team, Pune FC, will play the new season for Mumbai FC, where he will join his old Mahindra FC team-mates Steven Dias and N. P. Pradeep. The midfielder took some time off his busy pre-season to talk to Sportstar.
Question: Congrats on a great ISL outing. Can you share with us your experiences of playing for Atletico alongside some greats of football?
Answer: Thank you! Well, yes, it was a fantastic experience, true. And, I’m sure it was the same for them too! ISL is one of the most-watched sports leagues in the world, so I’m sure it was a surprising and enjoyable experience for all the international players. India is an incredible country, and playing here, in front of the football-crazy crowds of Kolkata, Kochi, Goa etc. must have been a lovely experience for them! ISL had the perfect mix of great international and Indian talents, and that’s what made the experience really special.
Tell us about your time at Pune and what you expect now in Mumbai.
Ah, Pune will always be very special. They were a new club when I signed with them, and I literally saw the club grow into a great team! I had a great time over there, made some lifelong friendships with my teammates, and was taken really good care of by the management. Pune FC will always remain very close to my heart!
Mumbai is a new challenge for me. I feel great to come back to the city after nearly six years. We have a good team with the potential to do really well this season. And, the coach is marshalling us very well. I have faith in this team, and am positive that it’s going to be an extremely fruitful association!
Is the I-League following the ISL a bad idea? A number of players are unavailable through injury. Is too much football happening?
I don’t think so. This is just the right amount of football, I think. The sport is starting to catch on, people are following it more than ever… this is precisely how it should be! We need to focus on our fitness, be prepared to work hard, and make the most of this opportunity! I mean, how can there be any such thing as “too much football”? I’m fit, I’m feeling great, and I’m raring to go!
What do you think the I-League needs to do to attract more foreign players to the country?
I don’t think the I-League needs to do anything! It’s a well-respected league with a roster of some incredibly talented players, and known across the globe. Also, there’s so much talent within India that we really don’t need to be looking outside for a boost, in the first place. And, if there are international players who want to come and play here, I’m sure they’ll figure out a way to. Just the way I did!
What is your take on a potential ISL-I League merger? Will it be good for the players?
I really don’t know if any such thing is on the cards. But, what I do know is that whatever happens, it should ultimately benefit Indian football. And, I intend to play an active role in it!