The Premier League is the most competitive football competition in the world, and throughout its history, there has been a host of different countries represented in the competition. However, one country that can’t claim to have had a player represent their country in the division is India.
The closest that the country have got thus far was through Michael Chopra. The English born striker became the first player of Indian parentage to play and score in the Premier League. Nonetheless, his last goal in the top-flight came ten years ago now during his time with Sunderland.
His early career set the world alight, and there were hopes that he could have been the long-term replacement for Alan Shearer at Newcastle United. He impressed at youth level, before signing his first professional contract in 2002. His first full season with the club saw him play his part in the Champions League before he was later loaned out to Watford for the second half of the season.
He impressed in the second-tier and scored five goals in his first five games. That run of form also saw him score four times against Burnley. The Hornets were keen on signing Chopra on a permanent basis, but Newcastle were reluctant to let him go.
His first consistent goalscoring season with the Toon came in the 2005-06 campaign. He scored his first goal for the club in an Intertoto Cup clash against Dubnica. He would be fondly remembered by the Newcastle faithful after scoring the winner against arch-rivals Sunderland later on in that season, which would also be his first goal in the Premier League.
That goal would also be fastest than a Kentucky Derby horse race contender. In fact, it was at the time fastest ever scored by a substitute, with the player needing only 15 seconds to score. Then, he would make a move away from Newcastle at the end of that season.
Championship and Return To Premier League
Chopra left Newcastle in the summer of 2006 on good terms and claimed that he would always be welcome to a return. His first season back in the Championship saw him score 22 goals in 44 appearances. His form ensured that the Bluebirds were among the favourites for promotion in that season.
He was named in the PFA Team of the Season that year before he made a shocking cross-city switch to Newcastle’s rivals- Sunderland.
Fans were concerned that Chopra’s allegiance to Newcastle might have had a damaging effect, but he quickly got on the right side by scoring on his debut against Tottenham Hotspur. His second season saw him playing time-limited, so he rejoined Cardiff on a short-loan, before signing for the club permanent in the summer window. He scored 21 goals in his first full season back with the club, but once against left the Bluebirds for a new challenge; this time with Ipswich Town.
He enjoyed an excellent first season with the club as he scored 12 goals to end the season as the top scorer. However, a poor second season left his future hanging in the balance, but he was picked up by Blackpool.
This move would be the worst of his career as he failed to score in 20 appearances and also fell out with fans and staff at the club after being critical of the training schedule.
After a disappointing spell with Blackpool, he moved onto the ISL with Kerala Blasters. He failed the score in his nine appearances with the club and was lamented by the media for his poor fitness.
He would move back to the UK following that disappointment, but after a season without scoring and injury problems at Alloa Athletic, he moved back to the Blasters.
In his second stint with the club, he scored one goal in ten appearances, before retiring at the end of the campaign in 2016.