AIFF closes in on 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 soon approach 24 such players, President Kalyan Chaubey said. The inclusion of PIO and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) players in the national team has been a subject 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 that is easier said than done as Indian law does not allow dual citizenship.

If a PIO player wants to play for India, they have to take Indian citizenship. A person must also reside in India for 12 months before applying for citizenship.

“We are looking to address 24 PIO players playing all over the world. But you know there is the issue of dual citizenship (not allowed to play for India). So we have to see how this can be done within the framework of central government rules,” Chaubey told PTI in an interview without disclosing the names of the players.

“We are having internal discussions about the matter and will come out with more details when more clarity is established.” According to the draft minutes of the November 9 executive committee meeting, an AIFF sub-committee under Punjab Football Association president Samir Thapar will “collect data and information on the subject” to enable the national association to reach a decision.

“After pleas from many fronts for 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 draft minutes of executive committee meeting.

“Thapar agreed and the sub-committee will gather data and information 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 such as 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 demanded to become Indian citizens if they want to play for the country. The government made PIO and OCI card holders unable to represent India unless they renounce their foreign citizenship and obtain Indian passports.

Chaubey said that India will have to play matches against higher ranked countries but the difference (in the FIFA rankings) should not be very big.

“The realistic approach would be to play against countries ranked from 76 to 100, which would boost our team’s confidence. Once we are in the top 75-80, we should look to play against European teams,” he said.

India is currently ranked 102 in the FIFA rankings.

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

“Our team won a World Cup qualifier 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 itself.” “Our head coach is fine and we never discuss the coaching contract in the middle of a tournament. We are all 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, telecast quality has increased, logistical support has improved and ground conditions have improved.

“What is required is for quality foreign players to play in the ISL and Indian players to be able to compete against them. This balance needs to be maintained.”

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

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