Indian hockey was limping back to normalcy after the chaotic 1985 Asia Cup final that India lost to Pakistan – and more importantly, after half a dozen players were banned for allegedly manhandling the umpire while disputing a goal against them.
Although subsequently some of the players were exonerated with their suspension set aside, the scars from that night in Dhaka remained.
So much so that at the 1986 World Cup in England, India touched rock bottom by finishing 12th and last as they struggled to find suitable replacements for the banned players despite the emergence of Pargat Singh as one of the world’s best full-backs and of master dribbler Mohammed Shahid who enjoyed an iconic status.
Thus, by the time Seoul Olympics came around, Indian hockey had barely recovered from the body blows it had received in 1985.
Coach M.P. Ganesh had a tough time in picking the 16 as he had to weigh sentiments against form. Eventually, under pressure, he included veterans Shahid, M.M.Somaya and Mervyn Fernandis in the squad though their utility was open to question.
There was also an issue over captaincy that went to Pargat Singh ahead of the veterans and much against the tradition of the senior-most player being made the skipper. In fact, Pargat was one among the 13 first-time Olympians in the squad.
Also in the team were future stars such as Jude Felix and Jagbir Singh besides Mark Phillip Patterson who was considered as among the best goalkeepers India has ever produced. Sadly though Patterson was played in only one match and it was not long before the goalkeeper migrated to Australia.
In Seoul, India stumbled at the very first hurdle, losing to Russia 0-1 and a Felix goal helped them draw 1-1 with Germany in their next outing. Victories against Korea and Canada put India’s campaign back on track, but their hopes were scuttled by the defeat to Great Britain in their last league match.
Thus, again the Indians were placed in the 5-8 positions race where they beat Argentina in the sudden-death tie-breaker only to lose to Pakistan to finish sixth.
Indian team: Pargat Singh Powar (captain), M.M. Somaya, Rajinder Singh Rawat, Mark Phillip Patterson, Mohinder Pal Singh, Ashok Kumar, Vivek Singh, Sujith Kumar, B.K. Subramani, Mervyn Fernandis, Gundeep Kumar, Jude Felix, Balwinder Singh, Thoiba Singh, Jagbir Singh, Mohd Shahid.
League – India lost to Russia 0-1.
India drew with West Germany 1-1 (Jude Felix 1).
India beat South Korea 3-1 (Thoiba Singh 2; Jude Felix 1).
India beat Canada 5-1 (Mohinder Pal Singh 2; Jude Felix 1; Mervyn Fernandis 1; Subramani 1).
India lost to Great Britain 0-3.
Classification (5-8 positions): India beat Argentina 10-9 (F/T 5-5; E/T 6-6; T/B 4-3) (Mohinder Pal Singh 2; Mervyn Fernandis 2; Balwinder Singh 1; Mohammad Shahid 1). 5-6 positions: India lost to Pakistan 1-2 (Mohinder Pal Singh 1).
Positions: Great Britain 1; Germany 2; The Netherlands 3; Australia 4; Pakistan 5; India 6; Soviet Union 7; Argentina 8; Spain 9; Korea 10; Canada 11; Kenya 12.
Penalty Stroke Competition vs Argentina:
Tie-breaker – India: Sujit Kumar (Missed 0-0); Jude Felix (Scored 1-0); Vivek Singh (Missed 1- 0); Mervyn Fernandes (Scored 2-1); Balwinder Singh (Scored 3-2). Argentina: Mascherom (Missed 0-0); Alejandro (Scored 1-1); Miguel Altube (Missed 1-1); C.Geneyro (Scored 2-2 ); Fernando Ferrera (Scored 3-3).
Sudden Death Tie Break: Argentina take 1st stroke: Miguel Altube (Missed 3-3); Balwinder Singh (Scored 4-3).