Harendra Singh bids adieu to Air India after long sojourn

The former India chief coach has joined a not-for-profit organisation that aims to develop football and hockey at the grassroots in Punjab.

Harendra Singh has quit Air India after nearly 30 years of service.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

For 30 years he was synonymous with Indian Airlines (later Air India) both on and off the field. At long last, though, Harendra Singh has finally decided to move on to other roles.

The former chief coach of Indian hockey has joined RoundGlass Sports as Technical Head for its hockey programme and would operate out of Chandigarh for the same. RoundGlass Sports is a not-for-profit organisation set up by USA-based Gurpreet Singh that aims to develop football and hockey at the grassroots in Punjab. Interestingly, it already owns Punjab FC, having completed the takeover earlier this year after picking up 50 percent stake in the erstwhile Minerva FC last year.

“For the moment I would shift base to Chandigarh as part of my new duties. Since my son is in [Class 10], the family would join me only after his board exams next year. But this is something I am really looking forward to. All my discussions with the owners so far have been extremely positive and I am impressed by both their vision for sports and their commitment to grassroots development,” Harendra told Sportstar.

Till two months back, even as the first batch of Indians returned from abroad during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Harendra was at the frontline at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, guiding people on necessary precautions and protocols for disembarking and entering the city. As DGM (commercial) with the airlines, he had been spending more hours at the office than at home.

Welcome break

Having quit after almost 30 years of service, however, he is enjoying life at the moment with his family at home. It is the first time in years, he admits, that they have been able to spend so much time together and the forced lockdown has been more than welcome. “Honestly, I think I am actually relaxing properly for the first time in my life. These few months with my wife and kids, I can’t remember when we last sat together for lunch and dinner every day for so many days. This has been the best time of my life ever,” he admitted.

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While Harendra has always been passionate about contributing to Indian hockey in multiple ways, his employment with Air India has often, although unintentionally, come in the way. It meant he had to seek permission every time he had a stint with the national team and, as a government employee, it affected his remunerations. And while he is grateful to Air India for giving him a job and always allowing him freedom to devote time to hockey away from his other duties, it also meant he is yet to own a house of his own.

He hopes to do that now. Harendra had been in talks with a few other academies across India but said the level of comfort and compatibility in terms of both the target and the way towards it with the RoundGlass owners convinced him.

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“I have always had a vision of creating an ecosystem for sports at par with the best in the world, something which is not restricted to an academy producing a couple of players for the national team. There has to be infrastructure, kits, selection, training, exposure, tie-ups with foreign clubs, education, everything. It is already visible in their commitment to football and I am looking forward to doing the same for hockey,” Harendra signed off.

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