Triman Ranvir, an 18-year-old footballer, landed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi from Belgium last month.
Wearing the jersey of the Belgium national football team, with a wide smile on his face, he wrote on Twitter, “As promised I will start my football journey in the beautiful country of India.”
The forward has Indian parents and has only one dream -- to play for India.
“I’m from Belgium, born and raised there. My ethnicity is Indian Punjabi,” he tells Sportstar in an exclusive interview.
“I don’t see it as a downgrade, I see it as an opportunity. India has the potential to be a big football giant in the coming years and I see a lot of promise here,” he adds.
Triman, however, will have to wait to realise his ambition as he has to stay at least five years in the country to get an Indian passport.
“I have the OCI (overseas citizen of India) card but for citizenship, I have been told to stay here for three more years and then apply for the passport, which may take even longer,” he says.
Beginnings in Belgium
Triman started out just like every European footballer, playing with friends at local clubs and then looking for opportunities in youth academies around the continent.
Born in Hasselt, Belgium, he started playing with Belgian youth side SK Kampelaar at the age of 11.
He became the top scorer at the highest amateur level and honed his skills further during a brief spell at AFC Tubize – an academy where the two of Belgium National team’s stars, Eden Hazard and Thorgan Hazard, played during their formative years.
After three seasons, he was off to the Netherlands, giving trials for clubs.
“In the Netherlands, we had an Academy called the Van Riemsdijk Sports Academy in the hills of Amsterdam. I played two trial games with them last year and impressed them,” he says.
“They said I could sign with them and so I decided to go and try to play in the Netherlands as their level is a bit higher than Belgium, football-wise.”
With the VRS Academy, he played in various youth leagues, honing his skills in the final third.
“We played in the Heemskerk Cup in Amsterdam where teams like Fluminense from Brazil, Mjällby from Sweden’s top division and u-19 Club Brugge played. We finished second in that tournament, losing the final against Fluminense,” he said.
Cut to India
Triman had an offer from Indian Super League (ISL) side Kerala Blasters, to play for it in the Reliance Youth Development League, but did not join the side because of contractual complications. And for now, he is without a club.
“I am ready to give up my Belgium passport,” he explains, “I want to play in the Reliace Development League since I have an OCI card and OCI cardholders are allowed there.”
The forward will be at least 22 by the time he could get his passport.
His agent, Ranjit Bajaj, told Sportstar, “He is training with the senior squad of Delhi FC and at the Minerva Academy. He is ready to play for free but given the current scenario, his options are really limited.
“There are so many players of Indian origin who want to come back to the country but the current situation is just sad,.”
Igor Stimac, the current National team coach and Stephen Constantine, the former India team coach, have both advocated the inclusion of players of Indian origin previously for the national team.
Most recently, former England under-17 international Yan Dhanda – another Indian origin player – expressed his willingness to play for India, on social media.
“Giving up my passport means I can’t play professionally in the UK and some European clubs, due to India’s FIFA ranking. Permitting OCI cards, similar to other countries, will allow me to represent the Indian football team as a dual national.
“I hope this can happen soon,” wrote the forward, who has three goals and four assists for Scottish first-division side Ross County this season and even got a shoutout from Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand.
Where does the AIFF stand on this?
The All India Football Federation said that it welcomes any player who wants to play for the Tri-colour but has no say in terms of dual citizenship regulations.
“We are more than happy to welcome anyone who wants to play for India. But the rules are not under our control. Only if the government changes things, we will operate accordingly,” Shaji Prabhakaran, the secretary general of the AIFF told Sportstar.
The Union Government barred players of Indian origin (PIO) and OCI cardholders from representing the country in sporting events in 2008.
This was upheld by the Delhi High Court in 2010, with Justice S. Muralidhar stating that the decision will continue to exist unless dual citizenship has been accepted in all aspects – something that is still forbidden by the Constitution of India.
In 2012, Arata Izumi – a Japanese footballer with an Indian father – became an Indian citizen six years after playing club football in the country. By then, he was 30. He played just nine times before retiring six years later.
Triman says, “I think it’s (India) my country and I just want to play football and see how it goes.”
- World Cup 2023: Pakistan vs New Zealand warm-up match to be played behind closed doors
- AFC Cup: Mohun Bagan beats Odisha FC 4-0, begins campaign in style
- Odisha FC vs Mohun Bagan SG AFC Cup HIGHLIGHTS: OFC 0-4 MBSG, Dimitri scores brace as Mariners demolish Juggernauts
- Why was Ravichandran Ashwin picked in ODI team despite not playing the format since Jan 2022
- Asian Games 2023, September 20: Indians in Action, schedule, events, LIVE streaming details, timings in IST