Indian veteran kabaddi player Manpreet Singh, who is set to receive the Dhyan Chand award on August 29, 2020 (National Sports Day) for his services to Indian kabaddi is thrilled to be finally receiving some recognition after being involved with the sport for 15-20 years.
One of the most recognised faces in the Indian kabaddi circuit, Manpreet Singh represented India at the 2002 and 2006 Asian Games, apart from winning the gold medal with the Indian team at the 2007 Kabaddi World Cup.
“I am feeling very happy to have got this award. I’ve played kabaddi for 15-20 years and that has borne fruit with this recognition and the award. I am very happy and I am feeling very good," Manpreet Singh said in an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda.
Post his glorious career with the Indian kabaddi team, Manpreet Singh captained the Patna Pirates to their maiden Pro Kabaddi League title in PKL Season 3, before he called time on his career as a player for the national side and in the franchise-based league.
A couple of seasons later, Manpreet Singh was named as the head coach of the newly formed Gujarat Fortunegiants ahead of PKL 5. The team tasted phenomenal success under him and made the summit clash, eventually losing to the Patna Pirates.
When quizzed about the challenges during his playing days versus those that leave him scratching his head while he's coaching from the sidelines, Manpreet Singh said that playing the sport and coaching are two very different and challenging roles.
However, with the PKL having given a platform for youngsters to rub shoulders with some big names and carve out a career for themselves, Manpreet Singh shed light on how the franchise-based league has helped aid the meteoric growth of the sport in India.
"Ever since PKL has come, the awards have increased and the game is getting popular. Players are getting more recognition and it’s good to see people play kabaddi all over the country and they all love it. Kabaddi is now at level where a lot of players are getting awards, and that is great to see," the GFG coach said.
For the first time since the inception of the sports award, the sport of kabaddi will see three recipients for different awards. Krishan Kumar Hooda is primed to be conferred with the Dronacharya Award while Deepak Niwas Hooda will be given the Arjuna Award.
And, of course, Manpreet Singh is set to be recognised with the Dhyan Chand award.
The veteran kabaddi star had some special words of respect for his former coach Krishan Kumar Hooda, who will be receiving the lifetime achievement award for his accomplishments as one of the premier coaches in Indian kabaddi history.
"I learned under Krishan Kumar Hooda ji for three years, he takes kabaddi to a different level when coaching. He was a great athlete and a great player. Even till date, he's one of the best coaches in Haryana. Under his coaching, we (Indian team) have always won the gold medal in big tournaments. I have learned a lot in life from him," Manpreet Singh said.
Manpreet Singh dreams of seeing India win gold medals at the Olympics
Having won a plethora of awards in his time as a player and in recent times as a coach, Manpreet Singh is happy with his achievements.
However, he feels that the one thing that is probably missing is a kabaddi player winning the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, and for that to happen, Manpreet Singh feels an Olympic gold medal will be the ultimate goal.
"One dream I have is to see India winning a gold medal at the Olympics. One of the awards I have not got is the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award. I feel once kabaddi goes into the Olympics, we will get that. We will get gold medals in the boys' and girls' divisions. This is the dream, to see kabaddi be a part of the Olympics, and for me to work with that team," said the former Patna Pirates captain.
The Pro Kabaddi League has indeed played a big part in unearthing some real gems who have the potential to bring more laurels to the country through kabaddi.
And, while Manpreet Singh firmly believes that Indian kabaddi is headed in the right direction, the former Indian star player is of the opinion that Deepak Niwas Hooda is a player who can be a role model for many upcoming youngsters.
"Deepak is young, he needs to play a lot more. He’s a star player who is a very good all-rounder. Youngsters are learning from Deepak and they have a good opportunity to consider him as a role model. He’s shown how one can be a good all-rounder, both with the Indian team and in the PKL," Manpreet Singh said.
"I would like to wish him the best and congratulate him for the Arjuna Award. He is very young, he can win many more awards. He prioritises his fitness and the way we see Virat Kohli in cricket, in the same light we see Deepak Niwas Hooda and many others like Pardeep (Narwal), Rohit Chhillar (Rohit Kumar). I hope he continues playing and wins more awards," he concluded.
On Saturday, August 29, Manpreet Singh will become only the second Indian kabaddi player since Shamsher Singh in 2007 to receive the prestigious Dhyan Chand award.
And, if one knows Manpreet Singh well enough from recent years, it can be said for certain that he certainly will not rest easy on his laurels, and will instead continue to guide some of the most talented players in order to fetch more glory to the sport.