Harpreet Singh will be ‘happiest to replicate Sandesh paaji’

Sandesh Jhingan, India's central defender, is Harpreet Singh's role model.

Sandesh Jhingan playing for Kerala Blasters during the 2017-18 Indian Super League.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

Born in the state of Punjab, there is little that differentiates Harpreet Singh from a typical ‘Punjabi.’

His nickname Happy and the ever-glowing smile on his face adds more to the charm of a young footballer from the State that has produced players for the national team over the years.

But Harpreet was somewhat of a rebel for football when he was young. “I cried a lot,” he smiles and recollects. “I use to cry a lot when my father forced me to go to school but at that time all I wanted to play was football.”

“Football has been my first love since I was a child and I was scolded a lot many times for going to play instead of studying.”

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But gradually times changed. “My parents understood my desire for the sport and when I got selected for the Indian team, they cried with joy and were happy that their son is representing the country.”

The state of Punjab has been a football nursery over the years and with the Indian U-16 national team having more than five Punjabis in the squad, the vigour is easily identifiable. No wonder Harpreet’s favourite player is Sandesh Jhingan, who plays in the same position as he does – defence.

“Sandesh paaji is my role model. In fact, he is the role model of many in the team and I am inspired by the way he plays on the field -- Fearless. That is how I want to play. I will be happiest if I can grow up to be a player like him.”

Perhaps playing fearless will come in handy as the Indian U-16s gears up for the AFC U-16 Championship Malaysia 2018 in an attempt to make history and qualify for the FIFA U-17 World Cup Peru 2019. But Harpreet does not want to stop there.

“I want to win the AFC U-16 Championship. We want to create history and become the first team to qualify (for the FIFA U17 World Cup) and become Champions.”

“It will certainly be a hard feat to achieve but we have been training harder and have belief in our system that we can accomplish this”

The defender notched up a goal in a 3-0 win over Yemen and stays confident that “if the ball comes to me from a corner kick scenario, I will try my best to score”

“As a defender my first job is to defend, but scoring is important for me as well.”

India U-19 team lost 2-0 to France in a four-nation tournament being played in Zagreb, Croatia.

Reflecting on the defeat, coach Floyd Pinto said, “The boys stood firm and restricted a far superior opponent for most of the match. Considering some of the French players are playing in French Ligue 1 and Elite Academy, our boys did a brilliant job. They proved that they belonged on the same pitch as their elite opponents. In fact, we had our chances -- Aniket’s chance from 25 yards out almost gave them a scare.”