There are a handful of players whose inclusion could transform the national team.
The ongoing debate regarding the inclusion of Person of Indian Origin (PIO) players in the Indian football team has not subsided. All India Football Federation (AIFF), the governing body for football in India, has maintained its strict stance of not considering players who are half-Indians for the national team.
However, Igor Stimac, the current head coach of the national team has previously alluded to the fact that India must allow players with dual citizenship to represent the country. Their inclusion could work wonders for the improvement in the Blue Tigers’ international pedigree and further develop the game at home. There are several figures in world football who could represent India if PIOs could play in our national colours and many of them would relish the opportunity.
The FIFA Congress 2020 voted to pass changes to eligibility for national teams. The biggest changes mean that players are no longer tied to a national team on the basis of a single appearance when they were younger. Players can now switch national teams provided they were eligible to represent a second country at the time they first played for their first country, even if they have played in a maximum of three official games for the first nation.
Having worked with top clubs all over the world, the following five players would improve the standard of the Indian football team exponentially:
5. Aryn Williams
Well before a plethora of players from the A-League decided to dip into the waters of the Indian Super League (ISL), Aryn Williams was among the first to make the journey to Indian football. The Australian-born midfielder with Indian heritage instead started out in the I-League with then-newcomers NEROCA FC.
Before leaving India, Williams had spoken to Khel Now and explained his ambitions to get an Indian passport and play for the national team. But, the various loopholes in the system denied him the opportunity to do so, despite persistent attempts, resulting in the Australian going to play elsewhere.
“That was my ultimate goal, to get an Indian passport and go to the national team, but when I arrived it just proved to be an impossible task. I went through many agencies and companies, but nobody really knew what to do. It was making me stressed, so in the end I left it,” he said, back then.
The 26-year-old midfielder is surely one who can represent the Blue Tigers, provided he gets the opportunity to do so.
4. Danny Batth
Danny Batth is a defender who is currently playing for Stoke City in the EFL Championship. The center-back was born to an Indian father and is therefore half-Indian. The 30-year-old has been vocal about his frustration at not being able to represent India and play international football.
The former Wolverhampton Wanderers skipper spoke in this regard back when he met former Indian football team head coach Stephen Contastine in 2017. “It’s something I would like to have the option of doing. I think it’s the only country in the world where they don’t like players from different countries coming back to play and represent them,” he said in an interview. Someone like Danny Batth playing alongside Sandesh Jhingan would be a welcome move.
3. Yan Dhanda
Yan Dhanda plays for Swansea City in the EFL Championship. He is a former Liverpool trainee who has also represented the England U-17 side on the international stage. The attacking midfielder is an ardent follower of the Indian national team and recently lauded the slew of new debutants for the Blue Tigers, who played against Oman and the UAE in international friendlies.
Yan is the first Indian-heritage footballer to have signed a professional contract with Liverpool. His father was born to parents from Punjab while his mother is English. The attacking midfielder is only 22-years-old and would relish the opportunity to represent India, given the opportunity.
2. Sarpreet Singh
Sarpreet Singh currently plays in the Bayern Munich reserve team. He is the only footballer of Indian-heritage to feature for the senior team in the Bundesliga. The attacking midfielder has also played for Nuremberg in Germany and Wellington Phoenix in the A-League. Interestingly, he also has a UEFA Champions League winner’s medal from the 2019-20 season.
Sarpreet Singh was born to Indian parents in New Zealand and has featured for the Kiwis on the international stage. He played against India during the 2018 Intercontinental Cup, contributing two assists in a 2-1 victory. A player of his caliber could do wonders for the Indian national setup and inspire a generation of creative midfielders in India.
1. Roy Krishna
Roy Krishna is a household name in Indian football. The Fiji international has spent two seasons in the Indian Super League with ATK and ATK Mohun Bagan respectively. In 44 games, the striker has scored 29 goals and assisted 14 more. Krishna has played for teams like Auckland City in New Zealand and Wellington Phoenix in the A-League, where he won the Golden Boot in the 2018-19 season.
Sadly, Krishna has already represented Fiji on the international stage and now he is not eligible to play for India based on the new FIFA laws. Had the rules been relaxed earlier, he could have represented India.