Transfer News: Former Newcastle striker Michael Chopra to play in India
By Dev Trehan
Last Updated: 18/08/14 12:01pm
Former Newcastle and Sunderland striker Michael Chopra says he will relinquish British citizenship to play for India after it was announced he would play in the inaugural Indian Super League (ISL).
The Newcastle academy product has scored 114 goals in his career in England and has featured for clubs including Sunderland, Cardiff City, Nottingham Forest, Watford and Ipswich.
Released by Blackpool this summer, Chopra - whose father is Indian - insists he cannot wait to begin a new chapter in his career.
"It's an amazing feeling and I am very excited and privileged to be part of this fantastic opportunity to develop football in India," he told Sky Sports.
“After playing in England for 12,13 years now I'm ready for a new challenge. I’m looking forward to the Indian Super League and getting into the I League after that.
“In the future I'd like to open up academies and hopefully one day represent India which has been a dream of mine for some time. My desire to play for India is well known and now I must do all I can to prove my ability and show fans that I'm worthy.
It's an amazing feeling and I am very excited and privileged to be part of this fantastic opportunity to develop football in India.
“I'd have to give my British passport up to do so but I want to fulfil my career and in years to come I want to tell my son that I was a part of all of this.”
The 30-year-old will take part in Thursday's ISL draft for the eight team inter-city league which is the brainchild of the All India Football Federation and its marketing partner IMG.
Andy Knee, vice-president of business development at IMG football, said: “We're thrilled that he's signed to participate in the Hero Indian Super League, and look forward to seeing him in action for the very first time on Indian soil."
Ajay K Mahan from Michael’s agency SME added: “This opportunity realises Michael’s goal to progress his football career and to reunite him with his Indian heritage which has been a desire of his for a few years.”
World Cup winners and European champions Robert Pires and David Trezeguet, and Champions League winner Luis Garcia, are among the marquee names that will play in the league which begins October 12.
European sides Atletico Madrid, Fiorentina and Feyenoord have all signed strategic partnerships with Super League clubs while Bollywood actors Salman Khan, Ranbhir Kapoor and John Abraham are team co-owners.
Indian cricket legends Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly are also among the co-owners of different franchises in the ISL which Chopra hopes will help the league mirror the success of the IPL.
“The Indian Premier League cricket is on Sky (next year) and is really big,” he added. "While the sport has become increasingly popular all over the world the ISL will put Indian football on the map. The Super League is only just kicking off so I think in years to come it will turn out to be a bit like the IPL.
“I think people will start following football more, watch it more and start wanting to play it more."
Asian Football Awards founder and football agent Baljit Rihal from Inventive Sports added: “I have worked closely with the SME Group and IMG to ensure that Michael is part of what we believe is a poignant moment in the history of Indian football.”