On Saturday, former Indian national football team captain Bhaichung Bhutia batted for inclusion of Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) in the national team as he believes that it could help Indian football in the short run.
Recently, Indian football team head coach Igor Stimac stressed the need for allowing OCIs and PIOs to represent India. But this cry is not new. Stephen Constantine had mentioned the need for India to go down that route during his first stint before his successors Bob Houghton and Wim Koevermans also raised the issue.
Constantine pushed for it in his second term as well, but it is only after Stimac’s latest statements that the AIFF has launched renewed discussions with the sports ministry.
In an Instagram LIVE session with the official handle of Indian Super League (ISL), Bhutia stated how including PIOs and OCIs will not only help achieve short term goals but also indirectly influence the ecosystem in the long run.
“I feel that at this moment, if they (PIO) want to play for India and they have Indian origins, they must play for India. Short term goals are necessary to get the results.
“This is important because you have good quality players of Indian origin who want to play for the country, then they must be given a chance. It’s important that the national team gets results as well. Every time you play well and lose, things get negative with the fans and the youngsters,” the 43-year-old former striker said.
"Once we start getting results, more kids will be interested and aspire to play football. Then we can focus on the grassroots in the long run,” he added.
Bhutia also urged Indian players to not only think about Europe when planning to go abroad and play but also consider Qatar, UAE and other Asian countries where the league quality is high.