Mumbai: Even if you opt for a comb search, it will hard to find an Indian in the top flight of international football. But there have been few instances of foreign players, contracted with Indian clubs, appearing on the big stage. Even that makes us proud. Isn’t it?
Majid Baskar was the first top level player who figured in Iran’s national squad for the FIFA World Cup in 1978, though didn’t play any match. Majid came to India in 1980s and won the hearts of Indian fans through sheer display of top class soccer. Arguably, he is still the best foreign recruit to have played on Indian soil.
The next was Nijerian Emeka Ezeugo, whose moment of glory came when he took field for the Nigerians in the 1994 World Cup, though for few minutes. He also took part in Seoul Olympics in 1988 donning Nigerian colours. Emeka played for East Bengal in 1986-87 seasons.
The latest in the list is Haitian footballer Sony Norde, who has had a few successful seasons in India before locking horns with the best Latin American outfits in the ongoing Copa America Centenario. Though Haiti lost their matches against the giants with the latest being the 0-4 drubbing at the hands of Equador last Sunday.
Despite that, Norde’s performance was lauded in India and the coaches and players of all the clubs were glued to television sets in the wee hours to watch their colleague compete with the best in the business on earth.
In the team’s (Haiti) disastrous performance, Norde was the lone bright spot having managed a few nippy runs through the middle and keeping the Equador defenders on their toes during the entire 90 minutes. Equador progressed to quarters by virtue of the win, but Norde won all hearts back home, and India as well.
Having sat out for the first two games against Peru and Brazil, Norde justified his selection in the final league game and that made Indians proud. Mohun Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen, under whom Norde produced some superb football for the green-and-maroon camp was more than happy to see Norde in the starting line-up for Haiti on Sunday.
“In the first two matches, he got no chance to play. So, I sent a text message to Sony and asked him not to get upset or lose focus… And when the chance finally came his way, Sony proved himself at the big stage. With some support and luck, he could have been the Man of the Match, too,” Sen was quoted as saying by The Telegraph.
“It feels really good when you see someone whom you have been coaching for two seasons impress at the highest level. I knew he had it in him to lift his game for tougher challenges,” an elated Sen added.