Manpreet Singh is one of the players who has been responsible for the rise of the India men’s team up the rankings in the past few years. Voted Asia’s Junior Player of the Year in 2014, Manpreet captained the junior team at the Hockey Junior World Cup in 2013 and led his young side to victory in the Sultan of Johor Cup that same year.
With two Olympics under his belt (2012 and 2016), Manpreet is experienced beyond his years and a mainstay in the India midfield.
Recalling the 2013 Hockey Junior World Cup, he has mixed emotions. “Our team’s motivation was good going into the 2013 Junior World Cup. We had prepared very well. But we did not have a good outing. Luck was not on our side in quite a few matches as we couldn’t convert opportunities into goals. I remember the game against Canada, we got quite a few chances to score but simply couldn’t avail. But I am confident this time the team will do well. They look in good shape and have had good wins so far and are high on confidence.”
Manpreet has been an international player since 2009 when he captained the Under-18 team to fourth place in the Asia Cup at Myanmar. His senior team debut was two years later against Pakistan in the Asian Champions Trophy, in China. He now has 164 international caps.
Looking back at his career so far, Manpreet says there are two international events that stand out for him. The first is the Hockey World League in Raipur in 2015, where India took bronze. “That was a big moment for all of us and we had a good run in the tournament against some of the top teams in the world,” he says.
The second tournament that figures strongly in his memory but for a very different reason is the Sultan Azlan Shah earlier this year. “I lost my dad mid-way through the tournament,” explains Manpreet. “I finished the funeral and came back to join the team. We finished runner’s up, losing to Australia.”
When Manpreet made his debut for the senior team he was the youngest player and he admits to feeling a lot of pressure to avoid making mistakes. But, he says the stalwarts in the senior team were very supportive and he singles out goalkeeper PR Sreejesh as one of the players who always encouraged him. “They would always support me and correct my mistakes, talk me through match situations, encourage me and they never lost their cool or patience with me.”
Looking to the Uttar Pradesh Men's Hockey Junior World Cup in Lucknow, Manpreet says the India junior team is packed full of talent. He picks out Harmanpreet Singh, Mandeep Singh, Harjeet Singh, Vikas Dahiya, Arman Qureshi, and Dipsan Tirkey as some of the players he feels will set the tournament alight with their skills. “The goal, whether you are a junior or a senior player is always to give your best and win laurels for the country. We play to win and bring pride to the nation.”
Follow Manpreet on Twitter: @manpreetpawar07