This article originally appeared in The Field’s newsletter, Game Points, on August 23, 2023. Sign up here to get the newsletter directly delivered to your inbox every week.

Just over a week ago, the All India Football Federation issued a curious statement. The president Kalyan Chaubey had set up a task force to scout for talented Persons of Indian Origin and Overseas Citizens of India who could find a place in the national teams.

For years now, the government of India has had a rule in place that forbids any non-Indian passport-holder from representing the country – in any sport. But is it possible that Chaubey, a Bharatiya Janata Party member, knows that something is afoot? Why else would a major sports federation set aside resources for what, on the face of it, is a futile project.

The bigger issue, however, is that allowing PIO and OCI individuals to play for India is a rather short-sighted and lazy approach.

It is an easy, quickfix solution for a federation to give up its own responsibilities of scouting, developing and nurturing players of international standard. Instead, they can simply lure in individuals groomed by a foreign nation. Ready-made products.

The call to repeal that government rule has been made for over a decade. And it has gained momentum on social media over the past few months. The same past few months when the Indian men’s football team won the Intercontinental Cup and SAFF Championships within the space of 30 days.

Those calls do a great disservice to the players who have worked hard and earned their way to the national team. What happens to Anwar Ali, who refused to quit playing despite a serious heart condition and is now a regular in defence for India? What happens to Jyoti Chouhan, who became the first Indian to score a hat-trick in a top-flight European League?

What happens to Ashalata Devi Loitongbam, the Indian women’s team captain who works a 9-to-5 job to make ends meet? What happens to Sunil Chhetri, the inspirational, evergreen captain of the Indian men’s team?

And what happens to all the women footballers who were made to play their prime domestic competition under harsh weather and living conditions? The winners of the Indian Women’s League did not even get the privilege of a proper trophy presentation ceremony.

What are they supposed to make of this move to seemingly replace the Indian players with those of Indian heritage – who are born, groomed, and often even represent a foreign nation.

The cliché thrown across any and every Indian sporting achievement is that 1.4 billion hearts, dreams, lives, and much more, hoped for such an achievement. The way to achieve those accolades is not to get PIO or OCIs – with foreign passports – to play for India. It is by improving our standards.

That is what the federations should be focusing on.