From outcasts to PKL title contenders: Coach Manpreet Singh’s Steelers defy odds to reach the top

Once written off by everyone after a crushing defeat in the opening fixture against UP Yoddhas, the Haryana Steelers has bounced back in style and is just a win away from lifting its maiden title.

Published : Mar 01, 2024 11:10 IST , HYDERABAD - 6 MINS READ

Haryana Steelers coach Manpreet Singh.
Haryana Steelers coach Manpreet Singh. | Photo Credit: PKL

Haryana Steelers coach Manpreet Singh. | Photo Credit: PKL

Manpreet Singh, the outspoken and passionate coach of the Haryana Steelers, has taken the Pro Kabaddi League by storm this season. After its unexpected win against the Jaipur Pink Panthers in the semifinals, he took to social media to urge fans to practice sportsmanship regardless of the outcome of the match.

A former Indian national player, Singh has a distinguished coaching career. He previously led the Gujarat Fortune Giants (now Gujarat Giants) to two consecutive finals (in seasons five and six), showcasing his strategic prowess. However, guiding the underdog Haryana Steelers to the PKL 10 final could be his crowning achievement, if he crosses the final hurdle.

An Unlikely Journey

At the start of the season, the Steelers were considered the least likely to make the playoffs, let alone the final. It lacked experienced players, with the exception of Mohit Nandal and Siddharth Desai. A heavy defeat in its first match against UP Yoddhas (by 30 points) further solidified this perception. Desai’s injury added to its woes, leaving them with a seemingly insurmountable task.

Undeterred, Singh transformed the team into a defensive powerhouse. He trusted his young defenders and Nandal’s experience, and the Steelers emerged as one of the league’s meanest defensive units. Captain Jaideep Dahiya, Nandal, Rahul Sethpal, Ashish, and Mohit formed a formidable wall, consistently stifling opposition raiders.

Haryana Steelers team. (L-R) Shivam Patare, Vinay, Jaideep Dahiya, Ashish, Rahul Sethpal and Mohit Nandal.
Haryana Steelers team. (L-R) Shivam Patare, Vinay, Jaideep Dahiya, Ashish, Rahul Sethpal and Mohit Nandal. | Photo Credit: PKL

Haryana Steelers team. (L-R) Shivam Patare, Vinay, Jaideep Dahiya, Ashish, Rahul Sethpal and Mohit Nandal. | Photo Credit: PKL

Grinding Out Success

Unlike its flashy final opponent, Puneri Paltan, the Steelers relied on grit and determination. It defied expectations, grinding out wins and securing a playoff spot. Despite their limited playoff experience, the Steelers continued their impressive run, cruising past the Gujarat Giants in the eliminator and securing their first win in PKL knockouts in their five-year history. Then it defeated the defending champion, Jaipur Pink Panthers, to reach the final.

Singh acknowledges the unique nature of this season and terms the emergence of young teams as a sign of a shift in kabaddi. “Both the finalists consist of young players, which I think is a statement that the game has evolved. Players after their 30s are not able to cope with the speed of the game,” he says after the win against the Pink Panthers.

The Punjab-born player-turned-coach also expressed his happiness that finally the league will see a new team lifting the trophy. “I’m very happy that this year there will be a new winner; a team will lift the trophy,” opines Singh.

ALSO READ | Puneri Paltan vs Haryana Steelers: Road to PKL 10 Final, head-to-head record

Singh also accepts that his team, being the underdogs, is helping them play freely. “My team had nothing to lose... I’m very happy for my boys; they have played with their hearts, and they deserve to play in the final,” says the former India international.

The Final Hurdle

While recognising Paltan’s strengths, the tactician is confident in his team’s abilities but expects the best team to lift the trophy. “Puneri are a brilliant team... In the final, anything can happen; the best team in those 40 minutes will win. We are confident that we’ll give our best on the mat.”

The Steelers’ defensive prowess is evident, with three of their defenders—Sethpal, Dahiya, and Nandal—ranking among the top 10 in the league for tackle points. However, as Dahiya, the team’s ‘Virender Sehwag’ for his aggressive playing style, emphasises, “Individual numbers don’t matter; all that matters is that the team is winning.”

The defender also credits his coach for the success of the team. “Manpreet paji is more of a brother to us than a coach. He helps us a lot in terms of understanding the game and motivates us to play fearlessly,” Dahiya says ahead of the final.

With a passionate coach, a determined team, and a strong defensive foundation, the Haryana Steelers are ready to create history in the PKL 10 final.

Sign in to unlock all user benefits
  • Get notified on top games and events
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign up / manage to our newsletters with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early bird access to discounts & offers to our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment