The Indian national football team is set to miss out on having another set of Person of Indian Origin (PIO) players in their ranks as Netan Sansara becomes the latest to face the brunt of strict Indian citizenship rules.
Sansara, who plays for Canadian club FC Edmonton in the North American Soccer League, expressed his desire to play for the Blue Tigers, but his agent has ruled out any possibility of that happening in the near future. Sansara represented England at Under-18s level.
Not only Sansara, but two other players who have played in the Norwegian top flight — Harmeet Singh and Karanveer Singh Grewal — are keen to represent India in international football but for the regulations regarding PIO in the world’s second-most populous country.
The players’ agent said: “Netan [Sansara] has been keen to represent India but as you know, the AIFF/Indian Government regulations have made it very difficult to represent India.
“The interest is there from the players, but the interest has to be from both sides.
“So if the AIFF/Indian Government are ready to change their regulations I am sure you will see players like Netan Sansara, Harmeet Singh and Kinni Grewal lift the quality of the Indian National Team.”
To play for the Indian national team, a player needs to be an Indian citizen and carry an Indian passport. Indian citizenship rules state that to attain eligibility to represent India, a person must stay in the country for 12 months before applying for Indian citizenship.
Given all three players’ thriving careers in Europe and around the world, it is unlikely they will go out of their way to break into Stephen Constantine’s national team. Either there needs to be a relaxation in the rules, or some middle ground needs to be found.
Last month, Union Sports Minister Vijay Goel met another PIO footballer in Danny Batth, who captains English Championship outfit Wolverhampton Wanderers, to discuss his possibility of turning up in India colours in international football, but there has been no groundbreaking development so far on that front.
With Indian-origin footballers now coming out to state their availability for selection in the Indian national team, it remains to be seen whether a constitutional amendment that relaxes the citizenship rules for PIO players takes effect in the near future.
Until then, Indian football will continue to miss out on players like Sansara and Harmeet, who is also known as the Norwegian Iniesta, for the national team.