Arata Izumi: I think I can do something great for the boys

After plying his trade in India for more than a decade, Arata Izumi called time on his career earlier this month to venture into the coaching scene. The Japanese-born midfielder has been one of the most recognisable players in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL), representing clubs such as FC Pune City, ATK and Kerala Blasters FC over the past seasons.

Having hang up his boots, Izumi has joined the Reliance Foundation Young Champs (RFYC) academy with the hope of nurturing the country’s brightest talents. In an exclusive interview with indiansuperleague.com, the 36-year-old, who celebrates his birthday today (July 31), spoke at length about his decision to join RFYC and his thoughts on the growth of football in India.

Stepping into the coaching field

Izumi is one of the lucky few to have achieved the dream of playing professional football for the national team. However, the former Indian midfielder revealed that he always had the objective of getting into a coaching role after retirement, “The first dream, of course, was to be a professional player. I started from East Bengal and it was a long journey to Pune FC, getting into the Hero ISL and the national team, but at the same time I always wanted to be a coach and was preparing myself, obtaining the license and trying to conduct some coaching camps for boys.”

Growing the next generation of footballers

When asked about his decision to join the RFYC academy in Navi Mumbai, Izumi spoke of his desire to make a lasting impact with the new generation of footballers, “Why I decided to join this academy is a very complicated story. I don’t know how to describe it. I simply found that this is the right time for me to get into the coaching role to help the new generation boys fulfil their dreams. And I think I can do something great for them.”

“I am taking care of the under-13 boys here and it’s not about what’s on the pitch only but off the pitch as well. I mean, before footballers, we are human beings, so along with other coaches, we are trying to help them grow as human beings as well as great footballers,” said Izumi on his current role at the academy.

State of the art facilities at RFYC

The RFYC academy in Navi Mumbai is known across the country for the facilities and infrastructure provided for the prospects to develop their footballing talent and Izumi was full of praise for the initiative by the Reliance Foundation, “Well, what can I say? It is a dream facility that any kid would love to have. If there was a time machine, I would love to go back to when I was 12 years of age and play for this academy! You don’t often see this great a facility, where everything is provided for the boys to concentrate on football and try to achieve their dream.”

He continues: “Imagine if kids have the right facilities to follow their dreams, then it means that many more kids can dare to dream also and try and become like their idols, and that will make the country shine. I think this is a great initiative from Reliance Foundation and I really appreciate it.”

Growth of Indian football

The former Kerala Blasters FC midfielder concluded by shedding light on the growth of Indian football over the past 10 years as well as the prospects for the future, “I came here (to India) in 2007 and since then, football has changed a lot. Especially after the Hero ISL came into the picture, people’s awareness about football and the growth of awareness has been gigantic. The kids started to play football much more than before and that is all thanks to whoever was and is a part of Indian football for the last decade. Their efforts are finally being fulfilled and I am sure this is a great sign for the future of Indian football.”

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