PATNA: For some of the most sought after kabaddi players in the country, the skipper of Pro Kabaddi League team Puneri Paltan, Manjeet Chhillar, is their idol. At 30 years, Manjeet has established himself as one of the finest talents in the game. With placards reading ‘Why fear when Manjeet is here’, the Nizampur man is a firm fan-favourite.
“I get happy when people see me as their idol. Players like Mohit (Chillar), who was my junior, are from my village. The most important thing is to work hard. Also, these youngsters should step up and prove their mettle, as there are talks to introduce kabaddi at the Olympics,” said the experienced all-rounder.
Manjeet also coaches youngsters back in his village, despite a busy schedule. “When I was young, my seniors coached me and shared their knowledge. It’s a cycle. Now that I’m a player, I feel its my duty to bring up and help the next generation. We teach kids half an hour before our session, after which they look at us practise. Kabaddi is understood better when you see it, and these kids can learn a lot from watching players,” he says. “We’ve already reached the peak of our careers, and it’s quite difficult to do something new. But the kids have a lot of time to analyse and improve.”
Having previously played for Bengaluru Bulls, Manjeet was very unlucky not to lift the trophy. But that has not got his spirits down, and he is delighted to have worked with some top coaches. “Randhir ji was my coach back then, and he trained me well. He is an Arjuna awardee, and his experience is intense. In Pune, Kasinathan sir grooms players well. I can’t find much difference between the teams, as both are handled by excellent coaches,” said Manjeet.
Asked whether Pune or Bengaluru was the better team, Manjeet had a hearty laugh. “See, now that I’m playing for Pune, I’ll say that Paltans are better. But jokes apart, both have excellent players and coaching staff, and the calibre to challenge for the title.”
Maharashtra is the only state that has two franchises in PKL. But the derby between U Mumba and Paltan is not as fierce as you think. The fans have, however, certainly been vocal when the two sides face each other.
“What I have to tell fans is that both teams represent Maharashtra. Whatever we achieve will be an achievement for the state. Also, I’ve a couple of friends in U Mumba, and I’ve to thank them as they’ve supported us during games, and that says how much of a healthy relationship players have.”