National men’s hockey team captain Manpreet Singh Thursday became the first Indian to win the International Hockey Federation’s (FIH) Player of the Year award.
The awards, which were introduced in 1999, saw the 27-year-old midfielder, polling a total of 35.2 per cent votes (from national associations, media, fans and players), edging out Arthur van Dorren of Belgium (19.7 per cent) and Lucas Villa of Argentina (16.5 per cent).
Manpreet, who made his debut in 2011, and now has 260 international appearances under his belt, learnt the basics of the game at the hockey stadium at Mithapur village in Jalandhar.
Mithapur has produced greats like Swaroop Singh, who was member of 1952 Helsinki Olympics gold medal winning, and former Indian captain Pargat Singh.
“For a player, who learnt hockey at Mithapur hoping to emulate Swaroop Singh and Pargat Singh, to win the FIH Player of the Year award is the biggest reward of my career. My late father and elder brothers wanted to see me in national colours. Had my father been alive today, he would have been the happiest person in this world. Ever since I was hockey trainee at Mithapur stadium, I would follow the FIH awards and to be the first Indian to get this award has made this occasion special for me,” said Manpreet Singh while speaking with The Indian Express.
Manpreet had captained India in the Asia cup title win in 2017 apart from leading the team in the recent FIH Pro Hockey League ties against Netherlands and Belgium, respectively. He was also part of the 2014 Asian Games gold medal winning Indian team and 2014 CWG Games silver medal winning team apart from 2016 and 2018 Champions Trophy silver medal winning teams. “Having played in more than 250 matches for India, I hope I can also better my role as mid-fielder and help the team win a medal in the Tokyo Olympics. The team has been playing well with youngsters like Rajkumar Pal impressing in FIH Pro League. We are aiming to play more attacking hockey. Winning a medal in Olympics will be like icing on the cake,” said Manpreet.
In 2016, he was in Malaysia for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup when his father died before India’s opening match against Japan. He returned home and rejoined the team after his father’s funeral. India went on to win bronze medal in the tournament. “My father always wanted to see me playing hockey for India and I am sure he is watching me from heaven,” he said.
FIH CEO Thierry Weil congratulated all the winners, including Manpreet on their achievements. “On behalf of FIH, I would like to extend heartfelt congratulations from the whole hockey community to all winners of the 2019 FIH Stars Awards and also to all nominees,” he said.
Hockey India President Mohd Mushtaque Ahmad also congratulated Manpreet. “He has matured over the years as a player and has proved his importance in the team. He has led India to important victories,” he said.
Earlier, young midfielder Vivek Sagar Prasad (male) and striker Lalremsiami (female) won the FIH Rising Star of the Year awards.
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