The All India Football Federation is once again pushing for the inclusion of Overseas Citizens of India and Persons of Indian Origin in the national teams, Indian Express reported.
The inclusion of OCI and PIO has been a topic that has invited a lot of debate in Indian football ever since Stephen Constantine mentioned the need for India to go down that route.
His successors Bob Houghton and Wim Koevermans also raised the issue before Constantine continued lobbying for it in his second term. With Igor Stimac becoming the latest on the list to stress the need for India allowing OCIs and PIOs to represent India, the AIFF has launched renewed discussions with the sports ministry.
In December 2008, the Sports Ministry, under MS Gill, formed a policy in which it was decided that only Indian citizens would be eligible to represent the country in international events.
However, before the lockdown was enforced, AIFF general secretary Kushal Das said he had held a meeting on this subject with sports minister Kiren Rijiju, then sports secretary Radhey Shyam Julaniya and Sports Authority of India director general Sandip Pradhan.
“We have submitted a detailed proposal to the ministry and they are reviewing it. They said they will get back to us soon but of course, a process will have to be followed so it might take some time. But compared to the previous discussions, the current discussion seemed more positive,” Das told the newspaper.
The apex Indian football body submitted a list of 30 Indian-origin players who can be considered for the national team, a proposal similar to one in 2015 that was rejected.
The AIFF could also introduce a quota for PIO and OCI players in Indian Super League and I-League teams, according to a technical committee member.
The PIOs and OCIs are not allowed to represent India unless they give up their foreign citizenship and apply for an Indian passport as the Indian government doesn’t allow dual citizenship.
However, AIFF believe the inclusion of the Indian-origin players would improve the national team considerably. Omid Singh, the Iranian player with an Indian origin who signed for East Bengal, is one of the players on Stimac’s radar.
However, the Indian government believes allowing PIOs and OCIs to represent India would hamper chances of home-grown sportsmen, and chances of a change in stance are less even though the latest meeting between AIFF and the sports ministry was positive.