India lost one of its finest coaches on Wednesday, January 20, as former India U-16 National Team coach Bitan Singh passed away.
Survived by his wife and two children, Bitan Singh also leaves behind an array of young and talented players, who have now come through the ranks of junior football, and begun to shine on the senior stage, taking Indian Football forward together.
Current senior national team midfielder Amarjit Singh Kiyam, who had captained India at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2017 and made his senior national team debut two years later, is one such player who had extensively trained under Bitan Singh back in his younger days.
“He was extremely professional. We had a lot of players from Manipur in our team, but he never gave us any preferential treatment, despite the fact that he was also from the same state,” said Amarjit. “Sometimes, it perhaps felt a bit harsh, but he later told us that he does not differentiate between players from different regions. Be it from Manipur, Mizoram, Haryana, Uttarakhand, or any state, he would treat all equally. That was his greatest quality.”
Blue Tigers midfielder Germanpreet Singh remarked on the humility of his former coach, that has helped him grow in his role as a professional footballer.
“He was my first coach at a National Team camp, back when I was in the U-14 team. He was such a nice person. He always used to encourage us to never stop working hard. He was friendly, but firm with us, and his humility was known to all. Whatever I am today, he has had a big role in it,” said Germanpreet.
FIFA U-17 World Cupper Ninthoinganba Meetei, who is currently playing his trade at NorthEast United FC in the Hero Indian Super League, revealed how Bitan Singh would train him even during the off-season back in his Indian Arrows days.
“I worked with coach Bitan for two years and he has a big role in what I am today. Whenever I was home away from the national team or Indian Arrows, he would continue to train me and keep me sharp for the forthcoming challenges. It’s really sad to hear about his passing and I hope his family and friends are strong at this difficult time,” said Ninthoi.
Ricky Shabong, the former India U-16 midfielder who is currently playing for the Indian Arrows in the ongoing Hero I-League 2020-21, attributes his own learning of discipline to Bitan Singh, who had scouted the youngster back in his U-14 days.
“He is the one who had taught me about the discipline that is involved in becoming a professional footballer. I was shocked to hear about his death. He was my first coach in the National Team circuit, and I truly learnt so much from him. In fact, he is the one who had scouted me in the India U-14 team,” said Ricky.