Rupinder Pal Singh gives reasons behind sudden retirement, reveals plans for future - Exclusive
Defender Rupinder Pal Singh was one of the stars of India's bronze-medal winning campaign at the Tokyo Olympics this year. The dragflicker scored four goals at the Games, including a penalty stroke in the third-place match against Germany. But just a couple of months after the Olympics, the 30-year-old announced that he is retiring from the sport.
According to sources cited by news agency PTI, Rupinder, along with Birender Lakra, was informed that they will not be a part of India's future plans - and will not be included among the players called up for the national camp in Bengaluru, which prompted them to make the decision.
In an exclusive interaction with Hindustan Times, Rupinder delved deeper into his decision to retire, and also revealed his future plans.
Q) What were the reasons behind your retirement?
"Before I was just thinking about the Olympics. After Tokyo Olympics, I thought about it. The decision was made after there was a mutual understanding between the coach (Graham Reid), Hockey India, and me. Then I decided this."
Q) You were in the best form of your career - was it a tough decision to retire?
"It is the toughest decision to retire for any sportsperson. It is not an easy decision to make. Because when you are playing a sport from the beginning, then suddenly it is going to come to an end. It was a difficult choice to make, and I was wondering what should I do. But it is a reality that a sportsperson's life is limited to a certain time. Then comes the second stage, where you have to start planning for the future. So, I felt that it was time for me to jump up to the next level and start thinking about it. I also discussed this with my family, and all the coaches and Hockey India staff, and then I made the call."
Q) In 2018, you were dropped from the squad for the World Cup. Did you feel that maybe you should at least play on till the 2022 World Cup?
"Being dropped from the squad during the 2018 World Cup was a bad moment for me. It was the worst feeling, you start thinking that despite all the hard work you have done for your years, you have failed and not achieved anything. So that was another reason why I decided to retire because after winning the Olympic medal, I did not want to reach a stage in the next few years where I am dropped from the team. I thought it's better I retire from the sport so that there is no wrong message that I was dropped from the team. I did not want to go through all of that."
Q) Apart from you, Birender Lakra and SV Sunil have also announced retirements. Do you feel there are youngsters in the squad who can pick up these spots?
"I think for all of us, this was another factor behind taking retirement. Because all the youngsters in the team are doing so well now. In my position, Harmanpreet Singh is doing well. Varun Kumar, Amit Rohidas are also doing good. There are options in the team among drag flickers and defenders now. Then, there is Gurinder, who tackles really well, and is quite sincere. For SV Sunil, there are players like Gurjant Singh, Dilpreet Singh, and other youngsters who can do better. So, in my and Birendra Lakra's positions, there are already four-five guys doing well. We want these youngsters who are doing well can have a good future because if we step down. Because they are young, they have time to prepare for Paris Olympics and other big events."
Q) What are your plans for the future?
"My plan is to play hockey for clubs for the next 2-3 years. I am not thinking about getting into coaching immediately. Because, first I want to learn a bit about coaching because it is totally different playing, and then to coach players. You need experience, and you need to do coaching courses, only then it will be useful to head towards that direction."
Q) How useful has this tie-up with brands like PUMA has been for athletes?
"I think PUMA is one brand which is sponsporing and tying up with the most number of athletes. Even at Olympics, there were a lot of athletes represented by the brand."