One of the most exciting things for an Indian football fan is watching Indians play in Europe or other foreign leagues. For decades, there weren’t many playing outside the country. Mohammed Salim became the first Indian to play for a foreign club when he played for Scottish side Celtic in 1948. More than forty years later, Baichung Bhutia signed for English second division side Bury FC. By the time he returned to India, he was already the poster boy of Indian football. He also became the first Indian to score in English football.
In the past decade, there was a massive rise in the number of Indians who played abroad. Sunil Chhetri’s popular foreign stints with Kansas City FC in the Major League Soccer (USA) and Sporting Clube de Portugal B were followed by several Indian players trying their luck outside India.
While players like Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Ishan Pandita, Sanjeev Stalin, Abneet Bharti and Ashique Kuruniyan caught the attention of fans, some went unnoticed. A few others had training stints and trials with foreign clubs but didn’t sign a contract with them like Mandar Rao Dessai, Lalianzuala Chhangte and Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem. Here we take a look at some of the lesser-known Indian players who foreign clubs signed.
Israil Gurung –
The former FC Pune City winger played for Vitoria Guimares B, which featured in the second division of Portuguese football in 2015. Gurung, an I-League winner with Churchill Brothers in 2013, secured a loan deal with the Portuguese side after Pune City’s partnership with the club. He was joined by teammate Manish Maithani and turned up for the ‘B’ team till the remainder of the season. He returned after the season and played in the ISL and I-League. Currently, he plays for Churchill Brothers in the I-League.
Manish Maithani –
Manish Maithani was the other Pune City player to be loaned to Vitoria Guimares B along with Israil Gurung after the first season of ISL. The central midfielder had played for Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan SC. The first team of Vitoria Guimares played in the top division Primeira Liga aiming for a place in Europe. Manish and Israil, however, played in the second division Segunda Liga. Currently, he is a free agent, having last played for Southern Samity.
Renedy Singh –
One of India’s finest midfielders of his generation, Renedy Singh made history by becoming the first Indian to sign for a top division Bulgarian side in 2015. He signed for CSKA Sofia, who had won the Bulgarian league a record 31 times and were European Cup semi-finalists twice. After playing in the first ISL season for Kerala Blasters, Renedy signed for CSKA Sofia till the end of the season.
He retired after the spell without making any official appearances. During his time with the Bulgarian side, he had said that the foreign stint would help him in his managerial skills once he becomes a manager in the future. Indeed Renedy has come a long way since then, as currently, he is the assistant manager of SC East Bengal.
Subrata Pal –
The most capped Indian goalkeeper has had an illustrious career in both domestic and international circuits. One of the main highlights of the distinguished ‘Spiderman ‘came when he signed for Danish top division club FC Vestsjaelland in 2014. He earlier had trials with the club in late 2013 and soon was offered a contract for a six-month loan deal. Though he didn’t feature in the first team, he made appearances for the reserve side. After the spell ended, he joined Mumbai City FC in the ISL. He stood out as one of the best goalkeepers in the league. He played for Hyderabad FC and SC East Bengal in the last season.
He shot to fame in the second season of the ISL, in which he scored four goals for the Delhi Dynamos. But he spent most of his initial playing years in the USA. He had foreign exposure early on when he got trials with 2015/16 English Premier League winners Leicester City. In the US, he played for his university side, and in 2014 he signed for Houston Hurricanes U23. The following year he briefly played for Laredo Heat which competed in the fourth division of the US. He then returned to India the same year, and now he plays for Sudeva Delhi FC in the I-League.