Indian national men’s hockey team skipper Manpreet Singh on Thursday became the first Indian player to be bestowed with the Player of the Year award by International Hockey Federation (FIH). The awards were launched back in 1999 and no Indian had ever won it, until now.
The 27-year-old midfielder received a massive 35.2 per cent votes from national associations, media, players and fans, enough to get past the likes of Belgium’s Arthur van Dorren (19.7 %) and Argentina’s Lucas Villa who received 16.5 %.
Congratulations to 2019 FIH Player of the year (Men) – @manpreetpawar07
Manpreet Singh (IND) -35.2% of combined votes
Arthur Van Doren (BEL) -19.7% of combined votes
Lucas Vila (ARG) -11.7 % of combined votes
— International Hockey Federation (@FIH_Hockey) February 13, 2020
Manpreet made his debut in 2011 after learning the basics of the game in Jalandhar’s Mithapur village. Ever since he has gone on to feature in 260 international games.
The village has a long history of producing hockey greats including Swaroop Singh, who was a part of the 1952 Helsinki Olympics gold medal-winning team, and Pargat Singh, the former Indian captain.
“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,” Manpreet Singh was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.
“Having played in more than 250 matches for India, I hope I can also better my role as a midfielder 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 the Olympics will be like icing on the cake,” he added.
Congratulations to Manpreet Singh @manpreetpawar07 for becoming “Player of the year 2019” also best wishes to team for upcoming matches #IndiaKaGame @TheHockeyIndia #PlayerOfTheYear pic.twitter.com/b3K67ZJR9O
— Sardar Singh (@imsardarsingh8) February 13, 2020
Thierry Weil, the FIH CEO, congratulated all the winners, including Manpreet for earning the honours.
“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.
This has been a successful phase for Indian hockey. Firstly, both the Men’s and Women’s teams made it to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Then, earlier this year, Women’s team captain Rani Rampal became the first Indian athlete to be bestowed with the prestigious ‘World Games Athlete of the Year’ award. In February, striker Lalremsiami (female) and young midfielder Vivek Sagar Prasad (male) won FIH’s Rising Star of the Year awards as well.