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Is India all set to allow PIO players to play for the national football team?

Indian players with foreign passports could play for India.

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 18:  Chelsea striker Diego Costa (l) and Wolves player Danny Batth in action during The Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Chelsea at Molineux on February 18, 2017 in Wolverhampton, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Danny Batth is an Indian-origin player

Danny Batth, the captain of former Premier League club Wolves, wants to play for India and India’s Minister of State for Sports Vijay Goel has stated that the country is looking at the possibility of allowing players of Indian origin (PIO) to play for the national football team in the future.

In a tweet, Goel wrote that the concept of allowing non-resident Indians to represent the country of their heritage is on the table for discussion, and he also stated his willingness to talk to Danny Batth, the Wolverhampton Wanderers captain.

Batth arrived in India this week and talked up the possibility of featuring for the Blue Tigers with the national team head coach, Stephen Constantine. 

Issues with dual citizenship have always been a roadblock as far as playing for the Indian national team is concerned. An Indian-origin footballer playing abroad has to forego his foreign passport and stay in India for 12 months to apply for Indian citizenship. As of now, only Indian citizens can play for the Indian national team.

Also read: Danny Batth, captain of former Premier League club Wolves, wants to play for India

The likes of Batth and Michael Chopra have made their intentions of playing for India clear, but the issues regarding getting an Indian citizenship are a stumbling block.

However, with Goel’s comment, it seems that things are about to change in the near future. The process might even require a constitutional amendment, but the Sports Minister’s take on the matter suggests that India is heading in the right direction as far as allowing PIOs to play for India is concerned. Batth will meet Goel today to discuss all the possibilities of him representing India in international football.

Indian origin players have made their mark in world football, but citizenship issues in India have meant the country’s national football team hasn’t been able to harness the pedigree of those foreign-based Indians. 

Batth and Chopra aside, there have been plenty of Indian-origin players who have excelled abroad. The likes of Neil Taylor and Luciano Narsingh have played in the Premier League, hence it is safe to assume that adding foreign-based players to the Indian team will undoubtedly add more quality to the national team.

Should any change in the citizenship rules come to pass, 100-ranked India will aim to climb further up the FIFA rankings ladder and qualify for the World Cup.

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