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Michael Chopra says he is willing to relinquish British citizenship to play for India

The prospect of coming to India is now becoming reality. My dad is very proud, said Chopra.

Written by Mihir Vasavda | Mumbai | Updated: August 22, 2014 10:40:02 am
The former Newscatle player speaks about his Indian connect and his dream of playing international football. (Source: Reuters File) The former Newscatle player speaks about his Indian connect and his dream of playing international football. (Source: Reuters File)

Former Newcastle United and Sunderland striker Michael Chopra was the only Englishman to feature in Thursday’s international players’ draft for the Indian Super League (ISL). He was snapped up by Sachin Tendulkar co-owned Kerala Blasters. In an interview with The Indian Express, Chopra who is the first player of Indian parentage to play and score in the Premier League, talks about his desire to play for the Indian national team and also extend his stay beyond the ISL by trying his luck in the I-League. Excerpts

You’ve expressed desire in the past to play for India. How realistic is the dream at this stage of your career?

* I’m willing to relinquish my British citizenship to play for India. In my opinion, it’s very realistic. It is my dream to play senior level international football. Playing for the Indian national team will help me realise that dream.

Why do you wish to play for India, considering that the national team itself is going through one of its worst phases?

* I am of Indian heritage — as my father is Indian. Playing for the national side would be a challenge that I would relish. I want to show the people of India the positive impact I can make to the international team. With the investment in Indian football, I can only see the team’s FIFA ranking improving and I hope to be a part of that change.

After all these years in the English top-flight, how tough will it be to adjust playing in India?

* I have played in the Premiership where the facilities have been second to none and I have also played at clubs where the standard has been low. I believe it’s down to the players as a unit to make the best of what is available and to make sure training is always enjoyable. I know what to expect and I am ready for it.

You’ve had a tough year or so in terms of form…

* Yes it has been tough not playing as much as I would have liked. However, I have kept working hard in training and now that the chance to prove myself in the Indian Super League has arrived, I am grabbing the opportunity.
Have you worked on any specific aspects of your game?
* I have kept myself fit and continue to train hard. I always like to learn and constantly watch DVDs of games to enhance my football thinking.
Do you think a three-month league is the way forward for Indian football?
* I can see what the organisers are trying to do with the ISL. They just want to appeal to the masses. A good way to do that is by bringing in international names. Having a wealth of experience will also benefit the Indian players and help improve their game. I only see it as a positive. If they can run this and the I-League, it’s a win win situation for football in India.
Would you be willing to stay beyond ISL and try your luck with I-League?
* I believe the opportunity that India now presents gives me a chance to revive my football career to new levels. I would really like to be part of the I-League as I believe the standard is improving all the time. My agents will be looking for an I-League side for me to be part of in the coming season.
Have you visited India before?
* I have never been to India, but have heard many good things about it. My grandparents immigrated to England from Jalandhar in Punjab in the 1950s. The prospect of coming to India is now becoming reality. My dad is very proud.

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