With his calm approach, Sukhwinder Singh turned the performance of the national football team around and deserves to be conferred with the Dhyan Chand award, former India players said in one voice, hailing the contribution of ex-India head coach. Sukhwinder, who coached India in 36 international matches and enjoyed a 47.22 per cent winning rate, will be conferred with the Life time achievement award on August 29 in a virtual ceremony. The 71-year-old won the SAFF Cup twice in 1999 and 2009, and also coached the Indian side that clinched a bronze in the 1999 SAF Games.
He was also in-charge of the India U-13 and the Pailan Arrows from 2011 to 2012. "Sukhi-sir is one of the most deserving coaches to win the award. Congratulations Sukhvinder Ji! He was also the one to give me my first match as India captain. I will always be grateful to him for that," former captain Bhaichung Bhutia said.
Former India star Renedy Singh, who made his international debut under Sukhwinder, said the coach from Punjab was "arguably one of the most successful Indian coaches for the national team. Sukhwinder sir was the coach under whom I made my national team debut. He really turned our team around from one that used to lose by a big margin against sides like Malaysia to a team that could give a tough fight to some of the best Asian teams like UAE and Uzbekistan".
The former India winger said Sukhwinder made the players see the bigger picture, no matter whether the team wins or loses. "Even after the famous win against UAE in Bangalore, he said we should stay calm and not go overboard with our celebrations. We had a crucial game coming up against Yemen, and we needed to focus on that," said Renedy.
"That was a really great quality in him. Once the game is over, you shift your focus to the next one. He used to tell us that football is always about getting ready for the next game."
Another former India captain Bruno Coutinho believes that India's performance improved when Sukhwinder was at the helm of affairs. "The Dhyan Chand Award is a great honour for someone like him. He was a great coach, technically very sound. What was great about him was that he enhanced our performance, and under his guidance, we did really well," said Coutinho.