British Indian former Newcastle footballer Michael Chopra says he is ready to give up his UK passport to represent India and realize his dream of playing international football.
Chopra’s grandparents moved to the UK from the Punjab in the 1950’s and he has played for a host of premier league clubs whilst also representing England at age-group tournaments.
The 30-year-old was reportedly approached by Indian football governing body the All India Football Federation in 2010 to play for his country of origin but a possible move feel through.
Chopra qualifies to play for India due to his parentage as per FIFA rules but Indian government regulations dictate that a potential player needs to hold a valid Indian passport.
“I was going to play for them four years ago. But at that time I was only 26 and I was too young to give up my British passport and travel around the world at that age,” Chopra told Reuters in an interview.
“I just had a little boy that was born and things like that, so it would have been difficult. My boy is six now and he has grown up and understands what his dad has got to do.
“So I plan to move to India and give up my British citizenship and get an Indian passport to play for the national team and take them forward.”
Chopra was last month picked by the Kerala Blasters team, co-owned by cricketing great Sachin Tendulkar, for the upcoming Indian Super League (ISL).
The eight-franchise ISL will run from Oct. 12 to Dec. 20 in its inaugural edition but Chopra sees a future for himself beyond that in India’s national ‘I League’.
“That’s my plan. I have spoken to my agency about my future about what I will be doing after the ISL. The prospect of playing in the I-League excites me as well,” Chopra, who also has plans to open academies in India, said.
“And also to play for the national team as well. Hopefully things come along and I can do all three.
“I have never been to India before so everybody is very excited. I have family over in India and everybody is texting me and calling me asking when I am coming over.
“If my grandparents were alive now, the smile on their faces would have been special. They always supported my playing football in England so for me to go back to India and play football over there would have been special for them.”
Despite huge interest in football in India, the country is ranked a poor 150th in the world rankings with FIFA president Sepp Blatter describing the country as the ‘sleeping giant’ of world football.
Chopra is aware of soccer’s ground realities in India and is confident he can easily adjust.
“The Indian team has got some good players. If I can help them raise their profile and make them a better team – that’s my aim,” Chopra said.
“Obviously it will be nice to play international football and play against teams I have never played against. It will be good for my career.”
The ISL has attracted some of the familiar names in world soccer and Chopra believes the league will change the face of the game in India.
“Everybody talks about cricket in India but I am pleased with the positive reports of the first edition of the ISL and hopefully I can boost it further,” he said.
“There are some real class players that will play the tournament and maybe more players will join next year.
“And once the league starts I think there will be lot more kids wanting to play football rather than cricket.”