Despite semifinal loss, Manpreet Singh's India deserve just as much as the heroes of Moscow 1980
A brief analysis of why the present Indian team deserve to be placed on par with the gold-medal winning team of Moscow 1980
As a fighting Indian side goes down 2 -5 against the world champions Belgium in the Olympics semifinal, the Indian media attempts to paint the picture of a team that failed to measure up to the gold-medal winning squad of 1980.
Forty-one years since Vasudevan Bhaskaran returned a hero after leading the Indians to a gold medal at the Moscow Games, the Indians under Manpreet Singh were on the verge of something bigger.
While the heroes of 1980 deserve the accolades they since earned, it is an inescapable fact that many of the leading hockey powers of the day were not part of the competition.
At the height of the Cold War, several countries turned their backs on the Moscow Olympics following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The giants of world hockey including Australia, West Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, Argentina, and Malaysia did not travel to Moscow.
Spain, Poland, Cuba, Tanzania, India and the Soviet Union competed in the hockey competition with India and Spain playing the final after round-robin group matches.
Graham Reid's team took on the very best competition that exists in the hockey world today and were a step away from reaching a milestone that has not been achieved since Tokyo 1964.
Fifty-seven years ago, the Indians got past Australia in the semifinal and went to beat arch-rivals Pakistan in the summit clash at the Komazawa Olympic Park in Tokyo.
It has been a long wait for Indian hockey fans as one of the best ever teams failed to reach the semifinals in 1984 although a few did come tantalizingly close.
The Indians had only Poland to beat to qualify for the semifinals at the Sydney Games in 2002, but the European side dashed India's hopes as the match ended in a 1-1 draw.
A semifinal after 49 years is no mean achievement and the last time the Indians won gold with all the top teams in attendance was a good 57 years ago which goes to show that building a world-class squad hasn't been easy.
in Munich, in 1972, the Indians went down to Pakistan in the semifinals and had to be content with a bronze medal which they won after beating a strong Netherlands side that included PC wizard Ties Kruize.
That the Indians managed to reach the third position in the world rankings and also qualify for a coveted semifinal spot should be enough to satisfy hockey fans that the boys are finally on the right track.
A bronze medal still beckons, but Manpreet Singh and co. deserve a heroes welcome irrespective of the outcome of Thursday's medal match.
Getting back into the league of champions after failing to qualify for the Olympics has been an ominous task and everyone involved in the arduous process now need to give themselves a well-deserved pat on the back.