Indian hockey players Birendra Lakra and Rupinder Pal Singh announced their retirements from international hockey on Thursday.
Singh, who was part of the Indian men’s team that won the bronze medal at Tokyo Olympics – India’s first hockey medal since 1980 – said it was time to make way for younger players. Lakra was the vice captain in Tokyo.
The 30-year-old played more than 200 matches for India and is considered as one of the best drag flickers in the world.
‘The past couple of months have undoubtedly been the best days of my life. Standing on the podium in Tokyo along with my teammates with whom I have shared some of the most incredible experiences of my life was a feeling I will cherish forever,” Singh wrote in the social media post.
“I believe it is time for me to make way for young and talented players to experience every great joy I have felt in these last 13 years of representing India,” he added.
Singh made his international debut in 2010 at the Sultan Azlan Shah Tournament held in Ipoh, where India clinched the gold. He has featured regularly on the Indian team’s historic wins, which includes the 2014 Asian Games triumph and the Gold Medal-winning 2016 Asian Champions Trophy campaign. He was dropped from the team briefly in 2018 but worked his way back, with the crowning moment coming at Tokyo.
Here’s the full text of Singh’s letter:
I would like to inform you about my decision to retire from the Indian hockey team. The past couple of months have undoubtedly been the best days of my life. Standing on the podium in Tokyo along with my teammates with whom I have shared some of the most incredible experiences of my life was a feeling I will cherish forever. I believe it is time for me to make way for young and talented players to experience every great joy I have felt in these last 13 years of representing India. I have had the honour of wearing the India jersey in 223 matches and each of these matches are special for I had the privilege of playing for this great sport-loving nation.
I am leaving the team feeling happy and content as we have conquered the greatest dream which was to win an Olympic medal for India. I will carry with me nothing but great memories of playing with some of the most talented players in world hockey and I have immense respect for each one of them. My teammates have been a great pillar of support all these years and I wish them the best as they surge ahead in taking India to newer heights in hockey.
None of this success I enjoy today would have been possible without the support and encouragement from my friends and family, particularly my mother and father. I walked into every match thinking of them.
I thank Hockey India for having their faith in me all these years. I also thank Baba Shershah Wali Academy and coaches, Firozpur where my journey in hockey began. I thank my friends & coaches from Faridkot from where I have some very fond memories as a young player. I also thank coaches late Shri Jasbir Singh Bajwa, Shri OP Ahlawat and my friends from Chandigarh Hockey Academy who played a big role in my formative years as a player.
I am grateful to all the Coaches who trained me to become a better player and I thank all the support staff - the scientific advisors, the physios, the masseurs, video analysts who have all been a big part of this success story.. Fans are truly the ones who make the sport more enjoyable and I was very fortunate all these years to enjoy the support of some very passionate fans of hockey. I wish that you will continue to support me the same way you always have as I move on from the Indian Team and begin a new chapter both on the personal and professional front.
With Love! Rupinder
Having progressed through the ranks of the junior team set-up, Lakra made his debut for the senior national team in the 2010 South Asian Games and has been part of India’s various memorable moments such as the 2014 Asian Games glory, bronze Medal feat in the World League Final 2015 in Raipur, silver medal-winning campaign at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and FIH Men’s Series Finals Bhubaneswar Odisha 2019 triumph as well.
In his long career, the two-time Olympian featured in almost all the major tournaments, including the FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup in 2014 and 2018 respectively. However, he missed out on the Rio Olympics 2016 due to a knee injury and made a strong comeback to the Indian setup by playing a pivotal role in the team’s gold medal-winning feat at the 2016 Asian Champions Trophy.