AIFF Explores Inclusion of Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) in National Football Team

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) is actively considering the prospect of selecting Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) to represent the national team, with plans to approach 24 such players in the near future, according to AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey.

The inclusion of PIOs and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) in the Indian football squad has been a longstanding subject of discussion. National team head coach Igor Stimac has expressed the importance of incorporating PIO players into the team. However, the Indian legal framework poses challenges, as it does not permit dual citizenship.

For PIO players desiring to play for India, the process involves acquiring Indian citizenship, which, according to Indian law, mandates a 12-month residency in the country before citizenship application.

“We are looking to approach 24 PIO players who are playing across the world. But you know there is the issue of dual citizenship (not being permitted to play for India). So, we have to see how this can be done within the framework of Central Government’s rules,” Chaubey shared in an interview with PTI, refraining from disclosing the names of the targeted players.

Internal discussions within AIFF are ongoing, and further details will be revealed once more clarity is attained. According to the draft minutes of the Executive Committee meeting held on November 9, a sub-committee under Punjab Football Association President Samir Thapar will be tasked with collating data and information to assist the AIFF in making an informed decision on the matter.

Acknowledging pleas for the inclusion of PIOs and OCIs (Overseas Citizens of India), President Chaubey initiated discussions with Thapar during a visit to Punjab. Thapar has agreed to lead the sub-committee, emphasizing the importance of gathering data to facilitate an informed decision by the AIFF.

This initiative harks back to the era when Bob Houghton, the Englishman who served as the head coach of the national team from 2006 to 2011, explored efforts to approach players like Michael Chopra. The latter, having represented England in age group teams and clubs like Newcastle United and Nottingham Forest, was considered for a potential switch to play for India during Houghton’s tenure.