Seniors gave me confidence to play without fear: Manpreet

Indian men’s hockey team skipper Manpreet Singh has said that the confidence he gained while being with the seniors when he first became a part of the senior side has taught him to play without fear or anxiety.

Manpreet, who arrived in Tokyo for the Olympics on Sunday morning, said, “When I came into Team India for the first time, there were so many stalwarts like Ignace Tirkey, Tushar Khandker, Shivendra Singh, Sardar Singh, Gurbaj Singh, Sarvanjit Singh and Sandeep Singh.

“All of these players gave me the confidence to play my own game without fear or anxiety. Even when I made some mistakes in the beginning, they gave me their full support and always encouraged me to express myself on the field without any fear. That was a great environment for a youngster like me to come into the national team.”

A decade on from making his debut for the national side, Manpreet who came as a teenager, Manpreet has established himself as one of the core members of the team. He has been a the side that has won tournaments such as the 2014 Asian Games, 2011 and 2018 Asian Champions Trophy and two bronze medals in the FIH World League in 2015 and 2017.

Manpreet was named captain of the senior side for the first time in 2017, and the team has gone on to steadily rise in the FIH World Rankings under his captaincy.

Speaking about his captaincy, manpreet said, “I have picked up a lot from the experienced players and team captains before me. We have a culture in this team where there is no distinction between senior players and junior players.

“Everyone in the team drives each other on to play without hesitation or fear. We support each other through on-field and off-field problems and always try to uplift the morale of the group. Even in this team, I always heed the advice and inputs of experienced players like PR Sreejesh, Rupinder Pal Singh and Birendra Lakra as everyone is keen to help in the growth of the team.”

Apart from leading the side in Tokyo, Manpreet will also be the joint flag bearer for India in the Olympics opening ceremony. However, Manpreet says he still has goals he wishes to achieve in his career.

“I have been blessed to have a great career in hockey thus far, but I still have two goals that I want to achieve in hockey. One of them is to win an Olympic medal for India, and the other is to win the hockey World Cup. I continue to work hard for these goals and lead the team along with me to the best of my ability.”