Updated: May 18, 2017 10:38:10 am
Days before the national team will assemble in Mumbai for a 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers preparation camp, chief coach Stephen Constantine was paid a visit by the captain of English Championship side Wolverhampton Wanderers, Danny Tanveer Batth. As a player of Indian origin, the 26-year-old met with Constantine in the hope of earning himself a spot in the Indian team in the future.
Since his return as national team head coach back in 2015, Constantine has often addressed the prospect of calling accomplished foreign players of Indian origin to compete for India on the international stage. Government rules, however, have overpowered any thought the All India Football Federation (AIFF) might have had of implementing Constantine’s recommendation.
For starters, dual-citizenship is not allowed and a candidate will be required to forgo 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 raised in the West Midlands county in England, Batth’s father hailed from Punjab and moved to England when he was 12. The centre-back, meanwhile, 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 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 captains armband thereon.
In between seasons though, he made trips to India to explore the country, steadily building the idea of playing for India on the international front. 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’s content with plying his trade at the Molineux Stadium, where 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.
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