Indian hockey skipper weds Malaysian sweetheart

Written by: mottaman | 17 Dec 2020 10:01
Illi Najwa Saddique and Indian hockey skipper Manpreet Singh Pawar during an outing at a Kuala Lumpur nightspot. - Pic credit Instagram @illisaddique
Written by:
17 Dec 2020 10:01

AFTER an eight-year courtship, Indian hockey skipper Manpreet Singh Pawar finally married his Malaysian sweetheart Illi Najwa Saddique, yesterday

The wedding ceremony and reception were held at Manpreet's hometown in Mithapur village in Jalandhar, Punjab.

Manpreet, 28, donned a ceremonial Punjabi wedding suit complete with a turban, while Illi Najwa was resplendent in a Punjabi bridal costume when they exchanged matrimonial vows.

The happy occasion was attended by family, relatives, national team players, officials, and invited guests.

Initially, the couple was scheduled to wed in April this year, with a grand reception in Ludhiana, but they had to postpone it owing to the outbreak of Covid-19.

The New Straits Times reliably learnt that Illi Najwa, 27, managed to secure a special permission from the Malaysian authorities and India's Home Affairs Ministry to fly to New Delhi, en route to Manpreet's hometown.

An International Hockey Federation official confirmed that Illi Najwa left via the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) on Dec 2 to join her fiancé.

"With travel restrictions between India and Malaysia eased recently, she managed to secure a flight ticket to New Delhi after obtaining the necessary government clearance," said the official, adding that an estimated 18,000 stranded Indian nationals had since managed to leave Malaysia to return home to India.

They had initially planned their wedding for Dec 30 to coincide with Illi Najwa's birthday but picked Dec 2 instead as 02/12/20 added up to seven which is Manpreet's jersey number.

Illi Najwa works with a private University in Malaysia, overseeing the planning, business development and student recruitment activities in the South Asian market.

Her mother Masita used to play hockey for the Malaysian army.

Manpreet first met Illi Najwa, who was a spectator, when he skippered the Indian junior team during the Sultan of Johor Cup in 2012.

The official added that this followed a courtship when Manpreet returned thereafter as the Indian national team captain at the annual Sultan Azlan Shah Cup tournament in Ipoh.

"Manpreet had reportedly fallen for Illi Najwa's charm and courteous behaviour, including being served with hot chappati at her home on their second date."

The couple had gotten engaged on Feb 26, 2014.

"Since their engagement, they had to put their wedding plans on hold to facilitate Manpreet's heavy involvement in international hockey and the domestic Indian hockey league," said the official.

However, the official said Illi Najwa, who is of Pakistani descent, frequently flew to India to spend time with Manpreet.

Manpreet began his captaincy when he led the Indian side to the Asia Cup gold, ending a 10-year old drought for the tournament.

Illi Najwa had made it known that an Olympic hockey medal at the deferred 2020 Tokyo Games in July next year would be the perfect start to their married life.

She admitted that hockey would remain Manpreet's priority even after their wedding, and she would be honoured to be by his side in Tokyo.

This would be Manpreet's third Olympic debut after London in 2012 and Rio in 2016.

Manpreet, born on June 26, 1992, has been India's captain since May 2017.

Playing halfback, he first played for India in 2011 at the age of 19 and was named Asia's "Junior Player of the Year" in 2014.

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