Captain Manpreet Singh will lead the Indian hockey team at the Tokyo Olympics, starting July 23.
Note to readers: Morning Stars is a series of interviews with achievers across fields about their morning routine and how they get ready for the day ahead. Mornings bring optimism and a fresh start. And how we spend them sets the tone for the day.
An athlete aspires to hear the cheers of spectators, not the sarcastic applause of teammates when he or she is late for team breakfast. That is why Manpreet Singh, who will lead the Indian men’s hockey team at the Tokyo Olympics, is usually up by 5.30 or 6 am.
The Indian team rules decree that if a player misses the 7 am reporting time for breakfast, he has to pay a fine and face some good-natured trolling from the rest of the gang. Save for the occasional slip due to a late-night football game, Manpreet, 28, makes sure that he clocks in at the appointed hour.
A conversation with the boyish midfielder about his morning routine.
Are you a morning person? What time do you usually get up?
Yes, I like starting early. The team breakfast is mostly at 7 am. So I get up at 5.30 or 6. I need seven-eight hours of sleep. There may or may not always be a deadline for sleeping, but I have been playing for many years, so you know how much you should sleep and by what time you should sleep, so that you are fresh for training the next day.
Any funny morning rush memory from camps or tournaments?
In our team, if you are late at breakfast, you are fined and everybody claps. Sometimes, it happens that you are watching a football match late and then you don’t hear the alarm. And you end up being late.
What fitness activity do you do in the morning?
If I’m preparing for a tournament, then it’s gym in the morning or stickball (field practice). If it’s off-season and I’m home in Jalandhar, I go to the gym at about 10 o’clock, or go to a field for running.
What is your regular news source in the morning?
I get my news from the phone and social media. I also glance at the newspapers as we get copies at SAI (Sports Authority of India). I keep track of sports events and Covid updates. For example, Euro is on now. I also follow some tennis and news about football transfers.
What do you like to see on the breakfast table?
Boiled eggs, cereal and fruit. On cheat days, being from Punjab, I like parathas.
You have travelled widely. What do you like about mornings in some places other than your hometown?
I enjoy the peace and quiet of mornings in England, Germany and some other places in Europe. It feels relaxing to be out in the fresh air, listening to old songs.
Any song or tune that you like to listen to in the morning, or which captures the morning mood for you?
I pray in the morning and often listen to kirtans from the Golden Temple.
Which famous stranger would you like to have breakfast with and why?
Cristiano Ronaldo. He’s been my idol. I have followed him for many years and admire his dedication. He is 36 but still driven and disciplined.
Don’t serve him cola.
(Laughs) Of course not. Woh phenk denge
(He will throw it away).