Manpreet Singh speaks out against social stigma created by COVID

The Indian hockey captain reveals how keeping a positive frame of mind helped him in coronavirus recovery.

By Naveen Peter

As on September 21, over 87,000 people in India have lost their lives to the deadly COVID-19. But according to Indian hockey team captain Manpreet Singh, the disease is not the only problem in the country.

“The problem with this virus is the social stigma attached,” Manpreet Singh told the Times of India.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), people are “labelled, stereotyped, discriminated against, treated separately, and/or experience loss of status because of a perceived link with a disease.” This, WHO says, negatively affects those afflicted and the people close to them, including caregivers.

The Indian skipper along with five of his team-mates were diagnosed with the coronavirus last month. Having spent about a week in at a COVID-19 care centre in Bengaluru, the players were discharged following a negative test.

Though their recovery has been slow, Manpreet Singh believes the only way to fight the virus is by building mental resolve.

“To all those people infected by the virus, I would say that I am a survivor and have successfully defeated this disease,” he said.

“If you remain positive in your thoughts, follow the doctor’s advice, take your medicines on time, self-isolate yourself and follow masks and social distancing norms then all of us, like me, can defeat the virus.”

Striker Mandeep Singh (centre) was one among the six players for the Indian hockey team to test positive for COVID-19. Photo: Hockey India

The Indian hockey captain admitted that the days he spent in the hospital and under self-isolation at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre were tough. 

“It was quite shocking and mentally stressful,” said 28-year-old Manpreet Singh. “The first reaction was ‘how is it possible?’ ‘How did I get it?’ My parents, family members and friends (in Punjab) had all tested negative. The mind was full of questions.

“But then I never allowed any negative thoughts to cross my mind. I believed in the treatment just like everyone else.”

Phasing a return to the hockey field

Manpreet Singh also revealed he wasn’t worried about returning to the field.

“So many players have tested positive and many have recovered,” he told the New Indian Express. “Many footballers did test positive (and have come back to playing). Novak Djokovic too... I just told myself it would be okay.”

At the national camp, Manpreet Singh and his team-mates, who had tested positive for COVID-19, are back on the hockey turf, albeit with some restrictions. Specific plans have been created to phase their return to training, taking it slow over the coming weeks.

“We began with 20 per cent and we are now at 60 per cent (of our optimal capacity). The hope is that we can get to 100 per cent in the next two weeks,” he said.

And with their competitive return still a few months away, the team management has the luxury to allow the players to regain their fitness before hitting their strides.