Manpreet Singh: 5 things to know about the India men's hockey team captain

India men's hockey team captain Manpreet Singh will make his third consecutive Olympic appearance at Tokyo 2020

By Samrat Chakraborty

Experienced Indian campaigner Manpreet Singh will look to make it count at Tokyo 2020, slated to get underway from July 23 2021, when he makes his third consecutive appearance at the Olympics.

The midfielder's experience will be crucial as 10 of the 16-member squad will be making their Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020. He will, however, find support in -- goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, defenders Harmanpreet Singh, Rupinder Pal Singh, and Surender Kumar; and forward Mandeep Singh -- who were a part of the squad at Rio 2016.

The Men in Blue have been drawn against reigning Olympic champions Argentina, hosts Japan, Australia, Spain and New Zealand in Pool A.

But ahead of the Games, let us learn a bit more about the India men's hockey team captain.

Current Indian captain Manpreet Singh

Inspiration behind taking up hockey

Manpreet comes from a humble background. He is a son of a farmer in Jalandhar, Punjab. As a youngster he was keen to take up the sport after watching his brothers, who played hockey, bring home prizes from several tournaments.

But his first real hero was Pargat Singh, the former India captain, who led the side at Barcelona 1992 Olympics and Atlanta 1996 Olympics.

“My first inspiration to play the game came from Pargat Singh, the former captain of the Indian hockey team, and DSP of my district,” Manpreet told HT Brunch.

Sporting idols

Manpreet is also inspired by Portugal talisman Cristiano Ronaldo's life story. Manpreet is also a huge fan of former England and Manchester United star David Beckham, and dons the No.7 jersey for the national team.

“Ronaldo says that even when you are successful, you should never forget your humble beginnings. I totally go by that philosophy,” Manpreet told HT Brunch.

"He is the best! There’s nothing I can say that Ronaldo lacks — he is good at everything. I love the fact that he started from a poor family and worked hard to reach where he is. Lionel Messi is god gifted with his skill and goes to the gym very little. But Ronaldo has put in a lot of hard work, ever since he was a child," he told Redbull.com

"After his father passed away, he worked hard for his family and to make his name. I’ve read that there’s not a single day that Ronaldo doesn’t go to the gym or doesn’t train on the field. He is always working hard which is why I am a very big fan of Ronaldo," he added.

Among the hockey idols, he looks up to former German captain Moritz Fürste and ex-India captain Sardar Singh.

"He (Moritz Fürste) gave me a lot of tips about the game. And Sardar Singh inspires me with his style of playing,” Manpreet had told HT Brunch.

Successful leader

Before leading the senior team, Manpreet had also captained the India junior men’s hockey team at the 2013 Men's Hockey Junior World Cup. He was also named the Junior Player of the Year by the Asian Hockey Federation in 2014.

He then took over the reigns of the senior team in 2017. India won the 2017 Men's Hockey Asia Cup and later clinched the bronze at the Hockey World League Final in the same year.

His success story as captain continues as India won bronze at the 2018 Asian Games, silver at the 2018 Champions Trophy, and gold at the 2018 Asian Champions Trophy.

He was also named the best men’s player in 2019 at the FIH Player of the Year Awards.

However, his biggest challenge awaits him at Tokyo 2020, where he will lead the World No.4 side.

Found his love on hockey field

Interestingly, Manpreet had first met his wife Illi Najwa Saddique from Malaysia, at the Sultan of Johor Cup in 2013. After the Indian team won the Sultan of Johor Cup in 2013, the Malaysian had approached Manpreet for a photo, and from there began a new partnership for the Indian captain. His mother-in-law, incidentally, also played hockey.

"I totally believe in love at first sight,” Manpreet told HT Brunch.

“She is really down to earth, and when she is in Jalandhar, she never behaves like a guest. My mother has named her Navpreet. And Illi is my best critic. She is totally honest with me. This doesn’t mean she puts me down. Instead, she motivates me,” he added.

Carries PlayStation on tours and loves punjabi music

Apart from his kit bag, one thing Manpreet never forgets to carry for his tours, is the PlayStation. He likes to play FIFA on the gaming console with his teammates SK Uthappa and Mandeep Singh.

"Many of my teammates also like to play; we mostly play FIFA. The gaming helps us relax and take time off, especially once we are done with a tough game. My gaming partners are SK Uthappa and Mandeep Singh; we are always getting together to play a game of football on the console," Manpreet told Redbull.com.

He is also fond of Punjabi music and loves listening to singers like Diljit Dosanjh and Honey Singh. Besides that, he is a big fan of Bollywood actor Salman Khan. M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story, Chak De! India and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag are among his favourite movies.

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