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We’ve sacrificed so much just to be here: Manpreet Singh

Manpreet Singh captained his young squad to their first medal—a bronze—at the Olympics. After the win, he spoke about the experience.
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India's Manpreet Singh reacts after his team defeated Germany 5-4 during the men's field hockey bronze medal match at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics(AP)
Published on Aug 05, 2021 11:30 PM IST
ByAvishek Roy, Tokyo

Inspired by two former India captains Pargat Singh and Sardar Singh, Manpreet Singh has waited for three Olympics to fulfil not just his dream but also of his idols. Hailing from Mithapur village in Punjab, the talisman of the Indian team on Thursday finally realised what he set out for since he debuted for India in 2011. He captained his young squad to their first medal—a bronze—at the Olympics. After the win, he spoke about the experience.

Excerpts

What was it like to come through this tense match and win India’s first Olympic medal in 41 years?

Main toh wahin pe let gaya (I just lay down where I stood). I had no words. The way the team played today after being 1-3 down at one point was amazing. Poora jaan de rahe the (we fought with all our heart).

We’ve sacrificed so much just to be here, in the bronze medal playoff, that we had made up our mind that we wanted to be on the podium. Just look at the last one year. We’ve been in SAI Bengaluru with guys staying away from their families for major parts of the year. Look at Sreejesh, who has been away from his wife and kids for so long.

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How did you pick yourself up after the 7-1 defeat against Australia?

When we had lost the match against Australia, I was really heartbroken. That time Rupinderpal came to me and said, ‘wait for 5 August. We will take a medal from here.’ Today, when I met Bob (Rupinder) after the medal, the first thing I did was remind him of that conversation.

Our aim was to make the final of the Olympics at Tokyo, but still bronze at an Olympics is a big deal. Particularly for India, since we haven’t done this in a long time.

We had decided that if we win a medal at Tokyo Olympics, we will dedicate it to our frontline workers and essential service workers. We also want to dedicate it to members of the police forces, and our army. All of them have been relentlessly and selflessly working during the pandemic. They’ve saved so many lives. We want to dedicate it to them.

Take us through the match, the fight that you put up after trailing for the first part

Germany are considered to have one of the best defences in the world. Scoring against them is difficult. We were 1-3 down. We didn’t give up. We kept telling ourselves and each other that these 60 minutes will not come back. Even when I would go on the bench today for rolling substitution, people would remind me of this. We didn’t want to experience that regret once we returned that we couldn’t win a medal. Didn’t want that ‘what if’ when the match was over. When I would go to the bench, Shamsher (Singh) would tell me, “paaji hum log karenge (we will do it).”

We had to work a lot to fix our last-minute errors issue. We were very, very committed to the ideology that if we lost games, we would not blame anyone. We lost as a team, we won as a team.

Inspired by two former India captains Pargat Singh and Sardar Singh, Manpreet Singh has waited for three Olympics to fulfil not just his dream but also of his idols. Hailing from Mithapur village in Punjab, the talisman of the Indian team on Thursday finally realised what he set out for since he debuted for India in 2011. He captained his young squad to their first medal—a bronze—at the Olympics. After the win, he spoke about the experience.

Excerpts

What was it like to come through this tense match and win India’s first Olympic medal in 41 years?

Main toh wahin pe let gaya (I just lay down where I stood). I had no words. The way the team played today after being 1-3 down at one point was amazing. Poora jaan de rahe the (we fought with all our heart).

We’ve sacrificed so much just to be here, in the bronze medal playoff, that we had made up our mind that we wanted to be on the podium. Just look at the last one year. We’ve been in SAI Bengaluru with guys staying away from their families for major parts of the year. Look at Sreejesh, who has been away from his wife and kids for so long.

How did you pick yourself up after the 7-1 defeat against Australia?

RELATED STORIES

When we had lost the match against Australia, I was really heartbroken. That time Rupinderpal came to me and said, ‘wait for 5 August. We will take a medal from here.’ Today, when I met Bob (Rupinder) after the medal, the first thing I did was remind him of that conversation.

ALSO READ | Tokyo Olympics 2020 Full Coverage

Our aim was to make the final of the Olympics at Tokyo, but still bronze at an Olympics is a big deal. Particularly for India, since we haven’t done this in a long time.

We had decided that if we win a medal at Tokyo Olympics, we will dedicate it to our frontline workers and essential service workers. We also want to dedicate it to members of the police forces, and our army. All of them have been relentlessly and selflessly working during the pandemic. They’ve saved so many lives. We want to dedicate it to them.

Take us through the match, the fight that you put up after trailing for the first part

Germany are considered to have one of the best defences in the world. Scoring against them is difficult. We were 1-3 down. We didn’t give up. We kept telling ourselves and each other that these 60 minutes will not come back. Even when I would go on the bench today for rolling substitution, people would remind me of this. We didn’t want to experience that regret once we returned that we couldn’t win a medal. Didn’t want that ‘what if’ when the match was over. When I would go to the bench, Shamsher (Singh) would tell me, “paaji hum log karenge (we will do it).”

We had to work a lot to fix our last-minute errors issue. We were very, very committed to the ideology that if we lost games, we would not blame anyone. We lost as a team, we won as a team.

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