AIFF To Approach 24 PIO Players For India Selection: AIFF President

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) is exploring the possibility of selecting Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) for the national duty and will approach 24 such players soon, president Kalyan Chaubey said. The inclusion of PIO and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) players in the national team has been a topic of debate for a long time. National team head coach Igor Stimac has already advocated the need to select PIO players for the Indian team. But it is easier said that done as the Indian law does not allow dual citizenship.

If a PIO players want to play for India, they have to take up Indian citizenship. A person must also stay in India for 12 months before applying for citizenship.

“We are looking to approach 24 PIO players who are playing across the world. But you know there is the issue of dual citizenship (not being permitted to play for India). So, we have to see how this can be done within the framework of Central Government’s rules,” Chaubey told PTI in an interview, without revealing the names of the players.

“We are having internal discussions on the matter and will come out with more details once more clarity is established.” According to the draft minutes of the Executive Committee meeting of November 9, a sub-committee of the AIFF under Punjab Football Association president Samir Thapar “will collate data and information on the subject” to enable the national federation to arrive at a decision.

“Following pleas from many fronts on the inclusion of PIOs and OCIs (Overseas Citizens of India), the president (Chaubey) discussed with Thapar (during a visit to Punjab) and offered him to head a sub-committee,” according to the draft minutes of the executive committee meeting.

“Thapar agreed and the sub committee will collate data and info on the subject to enable the AIFF to pursue an informed decision on the matter.” When Englishman Bob Houghton was the head coach of the national team from 2006 to 2011, there were some efforts to approach Michael Chopra, who had played for England age group teams and for clubs like Newcastle United and Nottingham Forest, if he wants to play for India.

But a 2008 government rule dashed all hopes of PIO players as they required to become Indian citizens if they aspire to play for the country. The government made PIO and OCI card holders ineligible to represent India unless they give up their foreign citizenships and get Indian passports.

Chaubey said India needs to play matches against higher-ranked countries but the gap (in FIFA rankings) should not be very large.

“The realistic approach would be to play against countries ranked from 76 to 100, that would enhance the confidence of our team. Once we are in the top 75-80 we should look to play European sides” he said.

India is currently ranked 102 in FIFA charts.

The AIFF President said the national team has been doing consistently well in the run-up to the upcoming AFC Asian Cup, beginning in Doha, Qatar on January 12.

“Our team won a World Cup qualifier match against Kuwait in Kuwait. It was the first time that India won an away match in World Cup qualifiers (in 22 years). We lost a home match against Qatar but even then the team gave a good account of itself.” “Our head coach is doing well and we never discuss on coach’s contract in the middle of a tournament. We all are focused on the upcoming AFC Asian Cup, improving India’s international ranking and reaching the next round (third round) of the World Cup qualifiers.” On the Indian Super League, he said, “Indian football has seen infrastructural development due to ISL, television broadcast quality has gone up, logistical support has improved and ground conditions have improved.

“What is required is that quality foreign players play at the ISL and Indian players are able to compete against them. This balance has to be maintained.”

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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