The All India Football Federation is decidedly ambivalent to the idea of Michael Chopra representing India.
“Michael Chopra is serious about playing for India and he has expressed his desire to us. So, we are looking into the rules and regulations on how he can play for India. But at the moment, it is not our priority,” Das said.
The Cardiff City striker has expressed his willingness to represent India and fulfills the FIFA requirement of having ethnic roots with his paternal grandparents from that country. His England call up have been limited to the youth squads which also makes him eligible for a nationality switch.
However, the red tape is all the doing of the Indian government that makes Indian nationality a pre-condition which means that Chopra will have to give up his UK passport. There is no dual citizenship provision between the two governments.
With the Asian Cup roster to be finalized within the next two weeks, it is hard to see the Indian government granting a waiver.
One can argue about the why and wherefore’s of Chopra’s willingness to play for India after he refused in 2006 but at that time he was just 22 years and must have thought he had a chance to make the England senior squad. Four years later, those hopes have virtually faded. Meanwhile, his Cardiff City compatriot Jay Bothroyd made Capello’s squad.
Zesh Rehman, the first British Asian to play in the Premiership when he debuted for Fulham in 2004 also gave up on his dream for playing for the Three Lions and opted to play for Pakistan in 2005. The Pakistani government grants dual citizenship and Rehman was therefore spared the frustration of bureaucratic hurdles. He has been part of their national team and by all accounts it has proved a fruitful move. In 2007, he had some advice for Chopra.
” Why wasn’t (Chopra) picked ahead of Dave Nugent? He’s the top goal scorer in the Championship but he can’t get in (the England set-up). So he needs to maybe look at his decision and go play for India instead of hanging on to the dream of playing for England, because it’s not going to happen, end of discussion.”
Obviously, it will take more than Chopra to yank India out of the cellars of international football but given the fact that Indian companies can now walk in and buy Premiership clubs, the citizenship requirements smacks of misplaced xenophobia and bureaucratic heavy handedness. The AIFF needs to be more pro-active than some lukewarm statement and lip service to youth development programs.