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African footballers flock to India for greener pastures

New Delhi: Far away from their homes, African footballers are flocking to India for greener pastures. They have not only won a million Indian hearts in the last two decades but have also been a
IANS January 12, 2014 19:09 IST
IANS
New Delhi: Far away from their homes, African footballers are flocking to India for greener pastures. They have not only won a million Indian hearts in the last two decades but have also been a source of inspiration for young Indian footballers. While some 400 Africans are playing in various clubs in India, around 25 feature in the top clubs in the elite I-League football tournament.


They come from Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and South Sudan, the world's newest nation that is engulfed in civil strife.

At a time when Indian football is taking time to catch up with the world's best, African footballers have given a new face to the game in the country. Their raw speed and power remain a challenge for the Indian players who are trying to make their way to foreign leagues in Europe and America.

Be it in Kolkata, Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune or in Goa, African footballers are finding their way into the top sides in Indian football. And why not? After all top clubs are spending anything between $100,000 to $400,000 each on African imports for a season.

Mohun Bagan skipper Odafe Onyeka Okolie is now the highest paid professional footballer in India with a pay package of approximately $400,000. His compatriot Ranty Martins, who plays for United SC, is also not far behind.

The fact that in the last six seasons, two Nigerians, Odafe and Ranty, have emerged as the top goal scorers in I-League shows the impact African footballers are having on Indian football.

"India made me famous. Had I stayed back in Nigeria, I wouldn't have achieved all this name and fame. India is special as they have good players and playing with them has been a great experience," Odafe told IANS.