New Delhi: National football team head coach Stephen Constantine still insists that People of Indian Origin players should be allowed to play for the country by giving temporary Indian passport for better results.
Sports Ministry rules allow only Indian passport holders to represent the country, but Constantine clarified that he was talking about 'temporary passport' to be given to the PIO footballers.
He said he was given a temporary passport by Rwanda government when he was the head coach of that country's football team last year.
"I am not talking about naturalisation of a PIO to become an Indian citizen. What I am saying is, give the PIO players temporary passport to be able to play for India. Once they are not playing for the country, they will not be able to use these passports," Constantine said at a media interaction during a reception hosted for him by British High Commission here last night.
"I got this temporary passport in Rwanda. I had this temporary Rwanda passport when I go for international matches (as coach) outside Rwanda. Once, the match is over, they (Rwanda authorities) will take away this temporary passport. I cannot buy any land or won any property in Rwanda because it was just a temporary passport," he added.
The 52-year-old Constantine, who had served as India coach earlier from 2002 to 2005, however, said that it was not a long term solution.
"I have some players of Indian origin who wants to play for India. But this idea is not a long term solution. It is just a temporary solution. For long term solution, you have to start from the grassroots and that is main thing India should focus on," he said.
All India Football Federation General Secretary Kushal Das said he was aware of the current Sports Ministry Rules which barred players who do not hold Indian passport from representing the country.
"Rules are rules. We are not looking at PIO players but whether OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India) players can play for India. We are going to ask the FIFA if these OCI players can play for the country. If FIFA says no, we cannot do anything," he said.
The idea of PIO players being allowed to play for India came in the wake of India losing to lowly ranked Guam in an away 2018 World Cup round two qualifying match.
"They (Guam) had nine players playing in other countries, including in United States, and only two playing in their country. If we have players plying trade in other countries in our team, we can do better," he said.
He was not happy that some Indian players had gone to play in leagues of other countries for the sake of going to play there. "Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (in top tier league in Norway) is mostly in reserves, Romeo Fernandes (who went to play in a provincial league club in Brazil) did not play much and why they have gone there," Constantine said, though he did not mention the likes of India captain Sunil Chhetri and goalkeeper Subrata Paul who had stints at MLS and Portuguese clubs, and Danish league clubs without playing in the first team.