Manpreet Singh, captain of the Indian hockey team, is the second flagbearer for the Indian contingent at the Commonwealth Games beginning  Thursday, July 28. Last year, Manpreet ended India’s 41-year-wait for the medal. Indian men’s hockey team defeated Germany 5-4 in the bronze medal match at the Tokyo Olympics. The last time India had won a medal in hockey was during the 1980 Moscow Games when they won a gold. Team India led by 29-year-old Manpreet Singh maintained the lead of 5-4 in the last 2 minutes to defeat rival Germany, who did get the penalty corner but India saved it.

Who is Manpreet Singh

Manpreet Singh, who is leading the Indian pack at the Tokyo Olympics, has played in 259 international matches for India. The midfielder became only the sixth Indian hockey player to be named the flag bearer of the Indian contingent for the opening ceremony of the Olympics.

A reluctant start?

For Manpreet Singh, born on June 26, playing hockey was not the obvious choice. He started playing hockey on the insistence of his father Baljit Singh and elder brothers Amandeep Singh and Sukhraj Singh at the hockey stadium Jalandhar district’s Mithapur, a place that is known for its hockey players. At the age of nine, Manpreet began playing hockey and soon after started his professional training at the Surjit Hockey Academy in 2005. Manpreet made his national team debut in 2011. Manpreet played in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in 2016 but while the tournament was on and the team was doing well, Manpreet’s father passed away. The midfielder, however, rejoined the team after the funeral and the Indian team went on to win a bronze.

On Monday, after the team entered the semifinals, Singh had said his late father would have been very proud. “My father would often accompany me and my brothers to the hockey ground at our village and he would always encourage me to play my best. I wish he was alive to see this proud moment for me. He will be watching me from the heavens and will be inspiring me and the whole team. I had a talk with my mother Manjeet Kaur today and she too said the same thing.”

Manpreet Singh’s achievements

Manpreet represented India for the first time in the 2012 London Olympics. In 2013 he led the junior national team, the same year he won the gold medal in the Men’s Hockey Junior World Cup and the 2013 Sultan of Johor Cup. He won silver at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 and gold at the Asian Games in Incheon. His team won gold at the Asian Men’s Hockey Champions Trophy in 2016. The following year, in 2017, he was named captain of the national team. Manpreet led his team to victory in the Asia Cup the same year. Later that year, he took bronze in the Hockey World League Final. Team India led by Manpreet Singh also won the bronze medal in the 2018 Asian Games, silver at the 2018 Champions Trophy, and gold at the 2018 Asian Champions Trophy as a captain.

Awards won by Manpreet Singh

In 2018, Manpreet Singh was honoured with the Arjuna Award. Next year in 2019, he was awarded the best men’s player at the FIH Player of the Year Awards in 2019.