FC ODISHA midfielder Vinit Rai has played eleven times for the India national football team.
Hailing from Dispur in the state of Assam, he is one of a number of players from the northeast of India to make it professionally.
Mr Rai was in the most recent India squad for the World Cup qualifier with Oman in November 2019.
That squad also featured Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem, born in Manipur, Sarthak Golui from Kolkata, Pritam Kotal from Uttarpara, Lallianzula Chhangte from Lunglei, Udanta Singh from Manipur, Pronay Halder from Barrackpore and Len Doungel from Saikul.
The Indian Super League possesses two teams from the region in ATK Mohun Bagan and NorthEast United.
The I-League meanwhile has East Bengal, Aizawl and NEROCA.
Clubs such as Shilling Lajong, Mohammedan, United, Royal Wahingdoh, Rangdajied United and United Sikkim have represented the region in the I-League in the past.
Mr Rai told Desi Sportscast: “The northeast produces so many footballers for India, but from where I came from, it’s quite hard to come up from there because from Assam there were not many players before, but now we have seven or eight players in the ISL teams.
“I had a very long journey and it’s not been so easy, because people here don’t really think to that level, but I’m always grateful to my dad, he showed me the right path, I just want to thank God.
“It feels good when you see so many reasons from your region, specifically northeast.”
In the squad for the Oman game, eight of the 23 players were born in the northeast.
This is 34.78 percent.
India’s population is estimated to be at around 1.35 billion.
In the 2011 census, 45.77 million were recorded as living in the northeast.
As a percentage, this is just 3.39 percent, meaning by population size, the region is over-represented ten times in the India squad, highlighting the plethora of talent produced by the region.
A Muhsen Al-Ghassani goal condemned India to a 1-0 defeat in Muscat, with the Reds also consigning India to a 2-1 defeat in Guwahati, coincidently in Assam.
Sunil Chetri opened the scoring in the September clash, but a late double from Rabia Al-Alwai gave the visitors the three points.
India followed this up with a goalless draw in Qatar and then 1-1 draws at home to Bangladesh and in Afghanistan.
India cannot win their group, but could still advance as runners up with return games with the three aforementioned times still to come.
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