Some of these stars have appeared at the highest-level in European football as well as in continental competitions.
PIO XI: 87% of France’s World Cup-winning team comprised of immigrants or children of immigrants. The European country contains a 9.1% immigrant population, with as many as 6 million immigrants residing in the country (data till 2014). This is a result of post-World War II policies that forced France to bring in labour, mostly from Africa, to re-build the country’s infrastructure and economy. These immigrants, who’re as French as they come, are a key element to the nation’s success at the global podium.
Neighbours China recently called up three foreign-born players to their national setup, a move that is expected to further bolster the improving side. Qatar, too, have drafted players of foreign nationalities into their squads. However, India currently doesn’t allow dual citizenship and only footballers who hold an Indian passport is permitted to play for the Blue Tigers.
Incumbent coach Igor Stimac and his predecessor Stephen Constantine have both voiced support to the idea more than once. The AIFF Technical Committee discussed it recently and the Ministry of Sports & Youth Affairs would have to relook at the scenario and take a call. According to reports, the AIFF has decided to renew its efforts to include PIOs (Players of Indian Origin) and OCIs (Overseas Citizens of India) in the national roster.
If and when this is allowed, India will have an array of brilliance to select and streamline on the pitch. A year or two together and these players could take the Blue Tigers at a much-higher podium. In this article, Khel Now picks its best PIO XI.
Note: Many of these players are not eligible to play for India as they have already represented other countries in major tournaments.
Goalkeeper: Karman Saini
Not the biggest name on the list, Saini is a Canadian goalkeeper. He last played for Swedish club Husqvarna FF, a team that finished sixth in the Swedish Division once when Saini was under the bar. He returned to Canada to re-join Oakville Blue Devils, a club he had played for in the past too.
He is currently without a club and is also studying sports management.
Right-Back: Nicholas Prasad
Born in Canada in 1995, Prasad is primarily a centre-back who also plays at right-back regularly for German club Bischofswerdaer FV 08 in the Regionalliga. After four seasons at the Seattle Redhawks, Prasad came to Europe to hone his skills. He’s 6’2 and is able to carry the ball up with speed.
He plays for the Fiji national team alongside ATK striker Roy Krishna.
Centre-Back: Netan Sansara
A towering centre-back known for scoring crucial goals, Sansara has been a journeyman of sorts, playing at his 11th professional club at the moment. He started his career at Walsall in England and has since played in Denmark, Sweden, Canada and Norway. He’s also known to score crucial goals.
His parents were born in the UK while his grandparents hailed from India.
Centre-Back: Danny Batth
The former Wolves captain was not in Nuno Espirito Santo’s plans and thus moved on to Stoke City in 2019. A mean central defender with ball-playing ability, Batth’s family hails from Punjab. In 2017, he had come to India and had met Stephen Constantine, the then Indian coach, on the sidelines of a FIFA World Cup qualifier in Mumbai.
Danny Batth had previously voiced his desire to play for the Indian national team and had met the then Sports Minister Vijay Goel as well.
Left-Back: Neil Taylor
One of the most acclaimed names on our list of PIO XI, Neil Taylor is a Welsh left-back whose mother hails from Kolkata. Taylor is the first British-Asian to play in the Premier League and has made over 250 appearances in the top two divisions of English football. The 31-year-old has also represented Wales over 40 times, while also reaching the UEFA Euro 2016 semi-finals.
He’s currently playing for Aston Villa in the Premier League against some of the best right-wingers in the world.
Left Winger: Omid Singh
Aged 27, Omid Singh is one of the most regarded PIOs in the country. Born and raised in Iran to a father who still carries an Indian passport, Omid is a destructive winger who cuts inside with consummate ease and finds either the back of the net or a teammate regularly. Omid recently expressed his desire to give up his Iranian passport to play for India under incumbent head coach Igor Stimac.
Central Midfielder: Harmeet Singh
Born in Oslo, Norway, Harmeet is one of the most talented PIOs currently plying his trade in Norway. He was praised by none other than Pep Guardiola himself, after he brilliantly controlled a game and scored a goal for Valerenga against FC Barcelona in a friendly. His parents belong to Ludhiana and Singh has nominated Norway at all age groups and the senior side as well.
He’s played for Molde FK under current Manchester United manager Ole Gunner Solskjaer and is known as the ‘Norwegian Iniesta’ in international media.
Central Midfielder: Sarpreet Singh
Born to Indian parents in Auckland, New Zealand, Sarpreet went cross-continent, signing for German giants Bayern Munich. He also made his debut for them and has drawn comparisons with Mesut Ozil. The play-maker caught the eye of Bayern scouts during the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland and was fast-tracked into the senior side by former manager Niko Kovac.
He’s also a capable scorer, having netted seven goals in 20 games while also assisting seven times.
Right Winger: Luciano Narsingh
Born in 1990 in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Narsingh currently plies his trade for Feyenoord and dons the No. 7 jersey. Originating from the famed Ajax academy, Narsingh has represented the Netherlands national team as well since 2012. Narsingh represented the country at the 2012 Euro Cup as well. He also played for Premier League side Swansea in 2017, returning to Netherlands once his contract expired.
Narsingh has Indian roots as his grandparents were immigrant workers from Andhra Pradesh.
Centre Attacking-Midfielder: Yan Dhanda
Dhanda has been the centre of discussion for most football fans in India. Born to a Punjabi father and an English mother, Dhanda became the first player of Indian origin to sign a professional contract with Liverpool FC. At Liverpool, Dhanda played for the U-18 and U-23 sides but never managed to break into the senior team.
He has represented England at the U-17 level and currently plays for Swansea.
Centre Forward: Roy Krishna
Most of you already know him, given his connection to Indian football. ATK’s prolific striker took them to their third ISL title this season, scoring 15 times in 21 games. A deadly finisher who is able to play as a second striker as well, Krishna has scored 29 times in 40 appearances for Fiji. He’s already been one of the most loved stars in the Indian Super League.
Krishna’s ancestors sailed off from India to Fiji in search of better opportunities about 140 years ago.
PIO XI notable mentions : Dilan Markanday (Spurs U21), Harpreet Ghotra (Frankfurt), Joshua Pynadath and Dylal Lall