PIO players not long-term solution for Indian football: Constantine

New Delhi, June 24 (IANS) India football coach Stephen Constantine on Wednesday said incorporating persons of Indian origin (PIO) in the national side might not spell a long-term solution but might yield positive results in the immediate future.

“I would like the opportunity to select some of the players that are of Indian origin or have roots here to play for the Indian national team. There are a number of players that I have identified who would add great value to the team and obviously improve us as a whole,” Constantine wrote on his official blog.

“This is, of course, not the long-term solution it is a way where we can improve results in the next few years now but and at the same time make sure we are doing the right things when it come to developing players here in India,” he said.

The British coach said India’s recent 1-2 loss to Guam in the 2018 World Cup qualifying match raised the issue more. After the loss, Constantine raised the issue citing Guam’s example who fielded several PIO players during their win against India.

He felt India were severely handicapped due to the government’s refusal to allow PIO footballers to play, particularly against emerging football countries similar to India.

It was India’s second consecutive loss in the World Cup qualifiers, having played and lost both matches so far.

“How can we do this without upsetting the government’s policies, the recent result against Guam has for sure raised the issue of why we are not allowed to use Indian players playing abroad,” he said.

The 52-year-old said the All India Football Federation (AIFF) is going about in a positive way to appoint skilled staffs for the junior sides.

“The AIFF has begun that process by appointing Nicolai Adam as the national U-17 coach and then allowing me to bring in Lee Johnson to run our U-19 national team this is giving those players from U-15 up to U-19 a solid football education which will pay dividends in the ensuing years.”

The coach suggests that if the government can recognise the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card, then the players with Indian roots can play for India.

“My point is that in other countries this process is happening at all levels especially at the club level. So how do we get the government to look at this rule so that we can take advantage of Indians who want to come and play.”

“The OCI card is perhaps the best option if our government recognises that OCI card holders can represent India in sports this can solve the problem and we can take full advantage has have all the other countries around the world,” Constantine concluded.

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