The farmer's son who tasted bread & jam for the first time in his life at a sports hostel, is today an owner of a luxury hotel chain. Now, he enjoys pampering his guests with delicious Mexican, Lebanese and Continental cuisine. In between his first encounter with brown bread and managing his hotel, Amir Singh had sweated 18 years of his life in the volleyball grounds of our country.
Introduce yourself as a volleyball player at the reception desk of Hotel Mandarin and you are sure to get a warm welcome. The feeling of being the personal guest of a CEO is always gratifying. After exchanging initial pleasantries Mr Singh took me to the top floor lounge bar with a view of the beautiful city of Chandigarh in the background. The conversation started from the days he bought is first pair of Nike shoes to resigning from HSIDC (Haryana Industrial Development Corporation) team, which he once founded.
Back in the late eighties Amir Singh would spend hours in the agriculture field while listening to cricket commentary on radio. He used to dream of becoming one among the legendry players. Accordingly, destiny opened the doors for him but not for cricket. It so happened that once Mr Vijendra, a pharmacist from his village accompanied a doctor to Bhiwani Sports Hostel. There he overheard two coaches discussing advantage of tall players in volleyball. Back in the village Vijendra ji persuaded Amir Singh’s father Shri Hawa Singh to send his youngest son to the sports hostel.
Amir’s father, was more than happy to send his child to a sports hostel. Upon reaching hostel, lanky Amir impressed the coaches with his reflexes but failed in the medical test due to colour blindness. He was supposed to return back home, but somewhere somebody “managed” the medical test and rest was history.
The diet of bread, butter, jam and eggs introduced Amir to the world of sports and tough training. After learning the basics of the game from his first Coach Shri Mohan Singh Nagreta he felt confident of making it big. But, there were hurdles to be crossed. The first hurdle was the hostel team which was toughest with all the boys of same height and build. Amir knew very well, lots of extra effort need to be put on to prove his calibre. That’s when a wild passion started growing in his belly. In order to qualify for the hostel main team he designed a strategy to perform better than his friends. So every night when all other players used to sleep Amir and his wrestler friend Manoj (presently posted with Indian railway) goes out for extra training every night. They slipped out from their bed at around midnight and exercise for two hours before returning back to bed. The mid night training adventure continued for months during in his first year at the hostel. At that point of time he never knew that in sports recover & rest is equally important as training. Years later he learned the importance of recovery and the secret formula of protein supplements from the personal doctor of legendry Brazilian football player Romario. To know more about his Romario connections continue reading!
Within one years of his mid night training sessions Amir Singh succeeded in taking a triple promotion. He not only got selection in the hostel and state team but succeeded in drawing the attention of national selector. He represented the Haryana state team and earned a place in the Indian Junior Camp in 1992. Initially being less weight (62 Kg ) coach considered him unfit for the game. Nevertheless he continued training hard with other players from across the nation. But due to his academic priority and ill health he returned back from the national camp.
A year later while playing a tournament in Hissar, Amir Singh was offered job by three departments - LIC, CRPF and Punjab Police. A week later two constable from Punjab Police landed at his home to take Amir to Jalandhar. During those days Mr Bhullar was DIG of Punjab Police. He was a sports lover to the core and appointed around 474 sportsmen in Punjab Police during his regime. On the day Amir landed in Jalandhar he was handed an offer letter to join as constable to which he objected. In the evening a fresh offer letter was issued for appointing him as Head Constable. Amir again opposed, as he was assured the post of ASI. Finally, DIG Bhullar personally intervened and offered him the post of his choice.
A year later Amir was again in the Indian junior camp. This time he was well prepared, ready to take on all challenges. If hostel practice was not enough for Amir the training at Indian camp left him with no scope for extra practice. When the players goes to bed after 8 hours of rigorous training they sleep like dead man. Many a players’ surrender unable to cope with the tough training. After almost a year of laborious training in the Indian camp, finally a team was to be selected to participate in the GHAR International tournament at Iran.
On the day when selection list was declared, he waited for more than an hour in front of the only PCO booth at SAI Campus, Bangalore to convey the good news to his elder brother Shri Kuldeep Singh. His elder brother was his biggest inspiration. A week later as the flight took off from Bangalore airport to Tehran two of his childhood dream came true, wearing the Indian tricolor jersey and flying in an aeroplane for the first time.
In the next couple of years travelling by flight became part of his life. In 1996, Indian team was playing in an international tournament at Pakistan. Before the final match Amir’s had a severe shoulder pain. The doctor who attended him gave an injection. Amir managed to play the final match but permanently damaged his shoulder. Till date Amir right shoulder is without any muscle. If one happen to see his shoulder, they will keep wondering how can a sportsman without any shoulder muscle become the best spikier of the country. One need nerves of steel not muscle to become a champion is what Amir had proved to the world.
In the course of next two years Amir became the main attacker of Indian senior team. In the Senior Asian Championship at Qatar he played to his heart content but the Indian team could not make it to the top four. Feeling dejected Amir was sitting alone in the gallery to watch some Japanese players in action. A tall gentleman wearing an Arabic attire came and seat near Amir. He greeted Amir and complimented him for his extraordinary performance. The happiness of players are always connected to winning matches and if one loses a hard fought match, he become like a wounded tiger. Same was the condition of Amir when the Arab Gentleman was trying to start a conversation with him. Initially Amir ignored him, without knowing that the man had come with a life changing offer for him. He wished to sign a contract with Amir to play for the Al Sadd Club in the professional Qatar league. It was an opportunity of a life time. Finally, Amir signed his first professional contract of his life for Rs 1.25 Lakh/ month for six month.
Amir with his Son
Life started changing for the village boy from Rohtak. He bought his first car, a Maruti 800 in the year 1999. But, he preferred to keep away from all the luxury money had to offer, instead he focused more on his performance. In 1999 he captained the Indian team to victory in the Kathmandu SAF games. His performance was being appreciated across the country. Young boys from interior villages of Haryana and Punjab started to hero worshiped Amir. Whenever Amir played in local tournaments, his supporters would come from far flung areas to watch him in action.
At the same time he was also fighting a legal battle with Punjab Police. He wished to resign from the Punjab Police team as he preferred to join a department in his home state. Initially, his resignation was not accepted. Few allegations were framed against Amir. The case finally becomes one and one between DGP Bhullar Vs ASI Amir Singh. On the final day of hearing the Judge announcing the decision in favour of Amir commenting “app log iss desh ki ek hoanhar khiladi ko accused kar rahay ho…..issay bada duk ki bat aur kya ho sakta hai”. (You people are trying to accused a talented sportsperson of this country ….what can be more painful than this). That was the legal fight but at heart Amir still salute the spirit of DGP Bhullar for his contribution towards volleyball. Along with Mr Bhullar Amir takes pride in naming his Indian team Guru Dronacharya Shri Shayam Sunder Rao as the two man who had immensely contributed towards growth of volleyball in our country.
By the year 2000 Amir was job less. However, his successful stunt with the Al Saad Club was continuing. At the same time Romario, the great football legend from Brazil was also playing for the same club. A team of 19 people was with Romario as support staff including a doctor named Lewis. There Amir for the first time understood the importance of systematic training, muscle dynamics and role of supplements is a sportsmen life. He developed a friendly relationship with Romario’s doctor. Language was the toughest hindrance between their friendships. Dr. Lewis spoke broken English and Amir hardly spoke English. To overcome the language barrier Amir bought a pocket oxford English dictionary. Every word Lewis spoke Amir would surf the dictionary and accordingly interpreted. In two months Amir had learned enough English to understand Lewis advice. From Lewis, he learned the secret formula of protein supplements. Even today he confess to have benefited the most from feedback of Dr Lewis.
Back home Amir Singh badly needed a team to play. Due to his delay in the resignation process with Punjab Police his job offer from ONGC got lapsed. Finally, he and the only Dhayan Chand Awardee of Volleyball Shri Om Praksh meet Abhay Chautala. Mr Chautala was impressed to have met a player who was performing exceptionally well for the country. Mr Chautala expressed his desire to form a team in Haryana. He assigned Mr Singh and Mr Om Praksh the responsibility to build a team which can regain the lost glory of Haryana in volleyball.
In the next couple of months Amir Singh along with Om Praksh went on a country wide talent hunt search to form a volleyball team. More than 12 post were created in Haryana Industrial Development Corporation (HSIDC) to appoint top class volleyball players. Young players across the nation both beginners and professional were given job offers and a strong outfit was formed. Not that they had a fairy tale start. Initially they lost many tournaments and faced humiliation. People abused and spoke badly about the team, many critics had even discarded the team as bunch of tall players without any neck for volleyball. Even during those time of frustration Amir and Om kept the team united. In the next three years they moulded all those armature players into world class sportsmen and overcome all obstacle to become the National Champion. For five years the team displayed outstanding performance to win all the major titles of the country. Almost all the players of the HSIDC team went on to represent the Indian team. Few of them even became Captain of the National team.
In the meantime Amir was also leading the charge of Indian Volleyball in International tournaments. From South Asian Federation Games to Rashid International Championship in Dubai Amir had helped India win numerous medals. He was being equally respected in India and abroad. In 2002 Government of India honoured him with the Arjun Award for his extraordinary contribution towards Indian Volleyball. On the day when the award was declared Amir was spearheading the Indian team to win the gold Medal in Shivanthi Gold Cup at Hyderabad. When the journalist asked him how he felt, he happily confess that “As a small village boy Haryana my only dream was to play for the nation and now to be chosen for Arjun Award it is a dream come true”.
In the year 2007 he was supposed to renew his contract with the Al Saad club for Rs 20lakhs/month for total six month. But, at the same time his own HSIDC team was participating in a prestigious National Tournament. Shri Om Prakash requested him to play the tournament as his presence was important for winning the tournament. Such was the commitment of Amir towards his team that he finally sacrificed the lucrative offer of Rs 1.20 Cr for the sake of his state team. This is only one instance were Amir had sacrificed his personal benefits for teams gain, there are many more such examples.
Amir Singh was always a man of discipline and hard work, which he had been following ever since the village pharmacist dropped him in the Bhiwani Sports Hostel. As the HSIDC team became successful, at times there were difference of opinion. Amir was very strict when it comes to disciple and training. There was a conflict of interest among the players. As he was a man of principle Amir finally resigned from the very team (HSIDC) he once founded.
But destiny had other plans for him. All these years he had sacrificed the luxuries of life and being a farmer’s son invested all his earning from the professional club on buying farm land. Even after resigning from the HSIDC team he continued his fitness and led a completely healthy lifestyle. Most of the sportsmen become directionless after retiring from active sports, but Amir channelized all his energy towards building his own company.
It require courage and conviction to enter a completely new domain without any background. But then again everything boils down to your Will. Where there is will, there is a way. During the time when he was exploring all option he meet his now business partner Mr Kuldeep Garg. A new dream was conceived to build his own Hotel chain. When he entered into the business of establishing the Hotel only than he realized that sweating eight hours in the volleyball ground was much easier than getting a minor documents cleared through Government office. On every step there was struggle, but he was is no mood to give up.
It was during these tough times that tragedy hit him. His wife of 12 years suffered a brain hemorrhage. With two young children at home life Amir went through the toughest phase of his life. Even with his wife at ICU he ensured that his children maintain their grades at school. All these years in sports, life had thought him to approach challenges on a positive note. After months of taking caring of his wife, she finally left Amir forever. Amir life was completely shattered. He was at an all-time low. He felt like it was point of no return.
To keep himself aloof, he even decided to permanently shift to Australia. But his business partner consoled him and stood by him during those tough times. Like a true sportsmen Amir bounced back again, this time there was no stopping. Finally on a fine autumn afternoon Hotel Mandarin was open to guest in the main Panchkula- Zirakpur Highway.
It is a long journey for Amir from collecting fodder for the buffaloes to managing a star Hotel. His second hotel is coming up in the next couple of month. Amir has seen it all, he had achieved success and faced tough situation. Now, his only wish is to make a mark as an honest human being in the real estate industry. Honesty is a rare quality in the real estate sector. But, Amir is confidence in the next couple of years people will respect his company M/s A & K Enterprise for their commitment and honesty.
The year 2014, has been lucky for Amir for the very reason that he met Deepika Singh, a professional medico who filled the void in Amir's life. The children found their mother in her and Amir his soul mate.
Today, relaxing comfortably in his CEO chamber Amir attributes all his success to VOLLEYBALL.