September 2, 2012 4:30:29 am
For the best part of two years,the universe had conspired to defy Arata Izumis efforts to become an Indian citizen. First,he needed to figure out exactly which type of application form he needed to fill. This was a more complex task than you would imagine.
Arata was born an Indian citizen,with an Indian birth certificate,in Japan,to an Indian father and a Japanese mother. But he became a Japanese citizen after his father left his mother.
The PFC midfielder and his wife Shweta Manerikar consulted six lawyers,made multiple trips to the Home Ministry in Delhi and endured endless waits in government offices with no blood circulation in their perennially crossed fingers.
To add to his woes,Aratas application papers were burnt in the Mantralaya fire that broke out in June this year.
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Finally,on August 22,the eve of PFCs Durand Cup opening match in Delhi,Aratas Indian passport arrived,just in time for the club to register him with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to play the tournament as an Indian player.
The 30-year-old now hopes to play for the national team.
The long wait for the arrival of his passport meant that he missed out on the three-week selection camp for the Nehru Cup squad,but Arata knows he is on the radar of coach Wim Koevermans.
I attended the coaching seminar that he (Koevermans) conducted in Navi Mumbai last month,and introduced myself to him, he says. He told me hell watch our matches and would pick me if Im good enough.
Exactly where Arata will fit into the Indian team,if picked,is an intriguing question. In the three seasons at PFC,he has played in all the attacking positions central midfield,on either wing,in the hole or even up front.
I am a utility player. PFC have needed me to play in different positions,and fill in for different players whenever we have had injuries, he says. I think its one of my strengths.
The Durand Cup Aratas first tournament as an Indian player proved disappointing for his team. PFC failed to qualify out of their quarterfinal group,drawing both their matches,CRPF and Sesa FA,neither of whom plays in the I-League first division. Arata says that this may have contributed to their results.
May be we went into the matches thinking,we are PFC,a top-division team,and that we could up the tempo and score anytime we wanted,so maybe we didnt have that urgency from the start. And both our opponents were determined while defending and put 10 men behind the ball, he says.
Against Sesa,we scored in the 90th minute,and conceded in the 91st. Maybe after scoring we thought,yes,our job is done,we have qualified,and then,they get a corner and equalise. But that is football. In a way,it was good it happened early in the season. We can learn from the experience and use it to prepare for the Federation Cup and the I-League.
Around the same time when he gained Indian citizenship,Arata also signed a contract extension with PFC. This means that he will have a fairly busy time on the pitch for the next two years. But a coaching career isnt too far on the horizon.
Arata already has a bit of experience under his belt,having coached the under-14 teams at the PFC Academy over the summer,plans to add substantially to his coaching resume.
Im looking to get an AFC coaching license by the end of this season. I may not have time to complete the B licence course,so maybe Ill start off with the C licence, he says.
And once Im done with my playing career,I want to go abroad,preferably to Europe and work under a really good coach and learn. But before that,he has another important trip to make.
For the last two years,I havent been able to visit my family in Japan,since I had to remain in India to fulfill my residency criteria, he says. So maybe at the end of this season,I will go and spend some time there. Otherwise,my Japanese friends will forget me.
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