Just days before the national team will assemble in Mumbai for a 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers preparation camp, Indian National Team coach Stephen Constantine was paid a visit by the captain of English Championship side Wolverhampton Wanderers, Danny Tanveer Batth.
As a British player of Indian origin, the 26-year-old footballer met with coach Constantine in the hope of earning himself a spot in the Indian team in the future.
Ever since his return as national team head coach back in 2015, Constantine has often proposed on calling accomplished foreign players of Indian origin to compete for India on the international stage. However, Government rules have overpowered any thought, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) might have had of implementing Constantine’s recommendations.
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To begin with, dual-citizenship is not allowed and a candidate will be required to let go of his foreign passport in favour of an Indian one. Additionally, a prospective player will need to reside within the country for a year before applying for citizenship.
However, Batth says he is willing to give up his British passport to play for India.
“I’ve thought about it and it doesn’t frighten me at all. But I’ve made a commitment to Wolverhampton Wanderers. I wouldn’t be able to reside in India because I play professionally in England. So that’s not an option,” says Batth, who met Constantine on Wednesday.
Born and brought up in the West Midlands county in England, Batth’s father hailed from Punjab and moved to England when he was only 12. The centre-back, however, was picked up by the Wolves and played for the club’s youth academy before moving up to the senior team in his late teens.
A renowned and reliable defender, who played each of the 46 matches in the 2013-14 season – which saw the Wolves earn promotion to the Championship from the lower Division One – Batth’s stellar performances earned him the captain’s armband as well.
In his current trip though, he finally got the chance to meet Constantine and discuss the plan.
“We were just talking about how much progress the team has made over the last few years and exploring the possibility of playing for India,” he says. “I’m sure he’d like to have the option of picking players that aren’t necessarily born in India as well.”
Batth is also willing to let go of any chances he might have had of playing for the England national team.
“If you look at the centre-back situation, it’s not impossible to get into the England squad. But I’m exploring my other opportunities first,” he says.
A spot in the Indian team is the chance he is after, but it may be a touch too far for the six-foot-three defender. “I don’t have the opportunity because the Indian FA doesn’t see me as a legitimate player,” he adds.
Still, he is content and confident of playing as an Indian National footballer someday. At the Molineux Stadium, he has his own set of fans, a set of Indian-origin supporters who know of his background all too well.
“They call themselves the ‘Punjabi Wolves,’” he says.