Manpreet Singh is a typical Punjabi, in a good way. He is confident, bold, in-your-face, intelligent and unafraid to take risks regardless of the situation or the opposition. The captain of the Indian men’s hockey team is one of the most recognisable faces in the sport today and is proud of it.
Unlike women’s hockey in India, where players come in young, peak early and then quit well before they hit their 30s, those in the men’s team tend to peak in their late 20s. By those standards, Manpreet, at 27, is an overachiever. Having made his national team debut while still in his teens, Manpreet was already an Olympian when he captained at the 2013 Junior World Cup. He had more than 100 caps before he even cemented his place as one of the best midfielders in the world and a true-blue successor to Sardar Singh. And when he did step into the shoes of his idol, he took over as the boss of the midfield like he was born to it.
“Honoured but there is still a long, long way to go. We had a disaster at 2012 Olympics in London, disappointed at Rio when we were actually capable of so much more. Third time is said to be a charm but more than luck, we are focussed on getting ourselves up to the level where we can prove that we deserve to be there, at the top,” Manpreet, adjudicated as the Sportsman of the Year in non-cricket team sports at the 2nd Sportstar Aces awards here on Monday, said.
The graduation from junior to senior turned the team’s prankster into a serious professional. Playing alongside his hero, German legend Moritz Fuerste, in the Hockey India League helped him hone both his technical and inter-personal skills. Captaincy and the Arjuna Award has now added further sense of responsibility to the youngster.
“People expect a lot from us. This award is proof of the fact that Indian hockey remains close to people’s hearts. It is also now an added motivation to go out there and prove we deserve all this love and appreciation,” he said.
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