Happy Birthday Manpreet Singh: The life and the career of the man who will lead India at Tokyo games

Manpreet Singh is gearing up to lead the men's hockey team at <a href='' target='_blank' rel='noopener noreferrer'>Tokyo Olympics</a>
Manpreet Singh is gearing up to lead the men's hockey team at Tokyo Olympics

The Tokyo Olympics 2020 will be the first summer games in which Manpreet Singh will be leading the men's hockey team. But this will be his third Olympic appearance overall. Manpreet is extremely happy with the opportunities that have come his way.

"It is my third Olympic Games. It is really a great honor you know when you're representing your country in Olympics, so I am really excited because I'm looking forward to be the captain. We are all excited for the Olympics this year," Manpreet Singh said on leading the men's team.

The man who will lead the men in blue at the Tokyo Games turns 29 today. Manpreet is from Jalandhar, a city located in Punjab and comes from a farming background. Manpreet made his debut for India in 2011. Since then he has represented his country in 269 matches, netting 22 goals. The Jalandhar-born lad was elevated to the position of captain in 2017 in the absence of veteran goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, for the Asia Cup.

Manpreet Singh: A fantastic leader

Under Manpreet Singh's leadership, the Indian men's team won the Asia Cup. A year later, they also won the Asian Champions Trophy. The team enjoyed continued success under Manpreet, who also helped India to a victory in the FIH Series Final in 2019.

The men's team was impressive under Manpreet's leadership as it made its way to the quarterfinals of the 2018 World Cup in Bhubaneswar. They also performed exceedingly well in the FIH Hockey Pro League.

On an individual level, Manpreet Singh was named Asia's best Junior Player in 2014. He also led India in the Hero FIH Hockey Junior Men’s World Cup in New Delhi. A year earlier, Manpreet guided the junior Indian side to a win in the third Sultan of Johor Cup in Johor Bahru.

That last tournament was also special for the 29-year-old because he met his wife, Illi Najwa Saddique, during the competition. She is a hockey player as well and a Malaysian of Pakistani origin.

“We met in 2012 when I had gone to Malaysia for the Sultan of Johor Cup. She was among the spectators. We had a brief interaction and I was carried away by her charm. I managed to get her phone number and stayed in touch. We got engaged in February 2014," Manpreet Singh said.

Manpreet and Illi Najwa Saddique got married last year.

Former German captain Moritz Fürste and former India captain Sardar Singh are Manpreet Singh's hockey heroes. In fact, he also played with Fürste for the same franchise in the Hockey India League. His sporting hero outside hockey is Cristiano Ronaldo. Manpreet Singh has read a lot of books and watched movies on the Portuguese superstar.

In an interview to Hockey India, the Indian hockey skipper said:

"There are so many things that I admire (about Ronaldo). Never give up in anything you do and keep pushing yourself to do the best."

Manpreet and Ronaldo's life stories are similar in some aspects. Ronaldo lost his father during the early stages of his career. Manpreet underwent a similar situation with his father when he was taking his first steps in international hockey.

Another footballer who inspires Manpreet is David Beckham. The two players are a major reason Manpreet chose to don the no.7 jersey for India.

In 2018, Manpreet Singh won the prestigious Arjuna Award. A year later, he was adjuged the FIH Men's Player of the Year for his excellence on the hockey field and guiding the men's team to the Tokyo Olympics. By winning the award, Manpreet became the first member of the India national team to win the Best Player award since the awards' introduction in 1999.

Also read: The key to performing well at Olympics is to take things step by step

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Edited by Anantaajith Ra
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