19-year-old Dilan Markanday has become the latest in a long list of British Indians to have cemented his place at a Premier League club, with Tottenham Hotspur announcing that they have extended the youngster’s contract. This comes at a time when the All India Football Federation (AIFF) has revived its efforts to include Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs) and Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) in the Indian national team.
Born in London to Indian parents, the attacking midfielder has been impressive this term and is already in his second year with the U23s even though he is just 19. He has made nine appearances this season for the U23 side, scoring once. Although he isn’t a huge presence in midfield, he is tactically sound and has the knack of popping up in dangerous positions near the opposition box. He was also the U18 side’s second highest goalscorer in 2018-19 with 11 goals and five assists.
This once again highlights the need for AIFF to push for the inclusion of players like him in the national team. With current head coach Igor Stimac also in favour of the idea, general secretary Kushal Das held a meeting with Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju and a few other officials last year with the aim of reaching a resolution on the matter. However, the subsequent lockdown resulted in talks dying down. The federation had earlier submitted a list of 30 Indian-origin players to be considered for selection in 2015 but that proposal was rejected by the Sports Ministry. India currently does not allow dual citizenship and based on a policy devised in 2008, only players with an Indian passport are allowed to play for the national team.
In 2012, Arata Izumi became the first such player to be selected in the national squad after he surrendered his Japanese passport and obtained Indian citizenship. Indo-Iranian attacking midfielder Omid Singh is another such prospect who had signed for East Bengal last year but left amidst uncertainty regarding the club’s participation in the Indian Super League (ISL). Although this is a common practice in European countries like France and Germany amongst others, it is still a contentious topic in Asian circles. However, considering the fact that countries like China and Qatar have also drafted players with mixed nationality to further their own cause in recent years, it is probably time for India to adopt a similar approach.