The All India Football Federation (AIFF) is venturing into uncharted territory as it explores the possibility of including Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) in the national football team. This move, if successful, could reshape the dynamics of Indian football and broaden the talent pool available for national duty.
President Kalyan Chaubey revealed that the AIFF is set to approach 24 PIO players scattered across the globe. However, this ambitious endeavor faces a significant hurdle – the issue of dual citizenship, which is not permitted under Indian law. To don the Indian jersey, PIO players must undergo the process of acquiring Indian citizenship, a journey that involves residing in the country for a minimum of 12 months before applying for citizenship.
National team head coach Igor Stimac has been a vocal advocate for the inclusion of PIO players, emphasizing the need to tap into the skills and experiences of individuals of Indian origin playing abroad. Despite the enthusiasm from the coaching staff and the AIFF, the legal complexities surrounding dual citizenship pose a formidable challenge.
Chaubey acknowledged the dual citizenship dilemma, stating, “We are having internal discussions on the matter and will come out with more details once more clarity is established.” This indicates a cautious approach, recognizing the need to align with the rules set by the Central Government.
About PIO Players:
The draft minutes of the Executive Committee meeting on November 9 shed light on the AIFF’s strategic approach. A sub-committee, headed by Punjab Football Association president Samir Thapar, has been tasked with collating data and information on the subject. This meticulous effort aims to provide the national federation with a comprehensive understanding, facilitating an informed decision-making process.
The inclusion of PIO and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) players in the national team has long been a topic of debate. While the intent to tap into the global Indian diaspora’s football talent is evident, the practical implementation faces hurdles. The AIFF’s move signals a progressive mindset, acknowledging the potential benefits of a diverse and enriched national team.
As discussions unfold within the AIFF and the sub-committee works towards gathering essential data, the football community eagerly awaits the outcome. If successful, this initiative could not only enhance the competitiveness of the Indian national team but also symbolize a step towards embracing a broader, more inclusive vision for Indian football on the global stage.