After a recent meeting, a technical committee member said they could introduce quotas for PIO and OCI players in ISL and I-League teams. As per Government of India guidelines, players with PIO / OCI documents cannot play for India.
The government’s policy formed in 2008, sports Ministry under MS Gill, closed the doors for OCIs and PIOs to represent India.
Constantine was one of the first instructors in India to bring the NRI player idea which was ruled out by then sports secretary Ajit Sharan Sharan in 2015 by saying, “The chances of withdrawing the policy are absolutely minimal. We are not even thinking about it.”
Bob Houghton followed it in the second half of that decade. Wim Koevermans tried his luck during his brief time in the country, and Constantine lobbied too ferociously a few years ago in his second term. Now, it’s Igor Stimack’s turn.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has tried its hand to include the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) and the Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) into national teams.
AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das said that he had a meeting with Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju, the then Sports Secretary Radheshyam Julania and Sandeep Pradhan, Director General of Sports Authority of India on the subject a few days before the nationwide lockout in March.
He said, ‘We have submitted a detailed proposal to the ministry and they are reviewing it. They said that they would come back to us soon but of course, a process would have to be followed, so it might take some time. But compared to previous discussions, the current discussion seemed more positive, ”said Das.
In its proposal, the AIFF has presented a list of about 30 Indian-origin players who can be considered for the national team – a practice they also performed in 2015 but which was rejected. The federation has also cited examples from other countries, including Asian champions Qatar, who have actively pursued this path to improve their teams. A technical committee member said that they could also introduce a quota for PIO and OCI players in Indian Super League and I-League teams.
It is learned that Stimac, who completes a year as India’s coach this month, also requested Rijiju to amend the policy during a coach’s webinar last week. On Friday, the technical committee of the AIFF also briefly spoke on the issue, but said through a media release, “It will wait for clarity from the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports before it is discussed later on stage.”
FIFA’s rule for neutralising foreign players
FIFA allowed a player to represent any national team, as long as the player held citizenship of that country. In 2004, in reaction to the growing trend towards naturalisation of foreign players in some countries (specially in Qatar and Togo) , FIFA implemented new ruling that requires a player to demonstrate a “clear connection” to any country they wish to represent.
The status of the national teams of PIO and OCI players was one of the most controversial points of Indian sport in the last decade. In December 2008, the sports ministry, under Ms Gill, formulated a policy that decided that only Indian citizens would be eligible to represent the country at international events.
This made PIO and OCI card holders ineligible to represent India until they had granted their foreign citizenship and applied for an Indian passport, noting that Indian laws do not allow dual citizenship. The government has so far ensured that allowing foreign athletes of Indian origin to play for India will hinder their chances of staying at home.
However, the AIFF believes that their inclusion will improve the national team, which is currently ranked 108 in the world. In its proposal to the ministry, the Indian FA has stated that they will scout for players above other divisions or prestigious leagues. Indian-origin winger Omid Singh, who signed for East Bengal last month, is one of the players Stamac is keen to bring into the national team’s set-up.
“If every country is allowing its players of origin to hold another passport and play for the country, then why shouldn’t India do it?” This will help us. Stamack said recently that I have already got seven or eight names of Indian players who have been born somewhere.
While the government has clearly relaxed the rule, Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the meeting with Rijiju in November last year asked the Sports Ministry to create a database of ‘global players of Indian origin’. So that it can be offered. ‘Theme’ of future Pravasi Bharatiya Divas. In addition, the Ministry was also asked to examine the possibility of organizing a global sports event / competition ‘of these Indian origin players in future.