Speaking English was a big problem until Coal India HIL happened: Mandeep Singh




New Delhi, 2nd January 2017: While the Coal India Hockey India League has been widely regarded as a tournament that’s done a world of good for Indian hockey, something that’s not acknowledged often enough is the fact that the league has helped several young players pick up the English language.

Mandeep Singh of Delhi Waveriders in action during the 2016 Coal India HIL

Mandeep Singh of Delhi Waveriders in action during the 2016 Coal India HIL

For Indian junior team’s prolific forward Mandeep Singh from Mithapur in Jalandhar, Punjab, playing in the Coal India HIL meant that he would have to beat his inhibitions of speaking in English. “I remember my first HIL stint I had to share a room with foreign player Floris Evers from Netherlands. The fact that I could barely manage broken English made things difficult for us,” he admits recalling an incident during the 2013 edition of League when he played for two-time Champions Ranchi franchise.

“Floris had asked me to set the alarm for 7.30 am as we were supposed to take the flight that morning from Lucknow to Ranchi for our next game. But obviously, I didn’t understand and I thought he meant that he would set the alarm and wake me up. In this confusion, both of us slept through the morning while the entire team bus waited for us wondering why we hadn’t come down from our room yet,” Mandeep recalls candidly.

However, such instances are a thing of the past. With constant exposure of communicating with foreign players in the Coal India HIL, Mandeep says that he and most of his teammates from the junior squad are confident of speaking in English—be it with fans abroad, foreign coaches or umpires. “This has helped us a lot because earlier, we couldn’t communicate to the international umpires as to why we think it’s a Penalty Corner and asking for a video referral. We had to rely on someone who knew English in the team or explain to our Captain. But regular meetings with foreign players during HIL has helped us improve our language. Initially, I could only follow the signals they (foreign players) would give while playing but from the second HIL onwards, things got better, thanks to the numerous team meetings we had where it was insisted that we expressed ourselves in English. This helped us get over our fears of speaking in a language that is uncommon in the region we come from,” he says.

It also helps that the foreign players like to spend time with Indian players during HIL and often engage in healthy banter and indulge in a few rounds of Playstation games. Mandeep explains, “Manpreet Singh (from the senior team) and I like games on the Playstation. This funny incident happened in 2013 when Floris (Dutch) and Bosco Perez- Pla (from Spain) joined us. The bet was that whoever lost had to have cold water bath in whatever clothes we were wearing and Manpreet and I lost. We got drenched in cold water even as we burst into loud laughter. I think instances like these would help break the ice with foreign players and reduce the language barrier.”

Such experiences from the Coal India HIL has not only brought about a feel-good factor among Indian and foreign players but it has also helped improve their communication with men’s team Chief Coach Roelant Oltmans as they understand his commands better and faster. “At the Junior World Cup matches, there were times when we were down by a goal or two at half-time. In those ten minutes of break Coach Oltmans would come up with a few different tactics that we had to implement in the second half. Of course, he would use the drawing board to explain too but if we had language issues, it would be hard to comprehend in such little time. But I think the past experiences at HIL where almost all of us have played helped,” insists Mandeep who will turn up for Delhi Waveriders this season.

He will be joined by Junior team Captain Harjeet Singh, Santa Singh and Parvinder Singh from the Junior World Cup winning squad.

The Tournament will start from 21 January 2017. Matches will be shown live on Star Sports 2 & HD 2 and Star Sports 3 & HD 3 and live streamed on Hotstar.com

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