European hockey powerhouses Germany, Holland and Great Britain also did not compete in this boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games. India had fared very badly in the Montreal Olympics; they had come down to the 7th position. The Moscow Olympics hockey competition was played on Poligras fields.

In a greatly weakened field of participants, India thrashed last minute entry Tanzania 18-0 in its first match. India scored 5 goals in 5 minutes. This huge victory over Tanzania was the second biggest score in Olympic hockey, after the 24-1 victory by India over USA in the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics.

India was lucky to get away with a 2-2 draw with Poland in the next game, with Merwyn Fernandes equalizing for India with only 5 seconds to spare. India had another lucky 2-2 draw with Spain, with the equalizer coming in the last 4 minutes. After surviving these hiccups, India beat Cuba 13-0 and hosts USSR 4-2 to come second in the pool (behind Spain) and qualify for the final.

In the final against Spain, India had a rousing start and established a comfortable three goal lead early in the second half. But Spain gamely bounced back into the game with 2 unanswered goals. With Spain raiding the Indian defence, and with only 6 minutes left, Mohammed Shaheed scored a goal. However, with only 4 minutes remaining, Spain scored yet again with their skipper Juan Amat completing his hattrick. The atmosphere in the last few minutes was electric, and India finally won the thriller 4-3, and thus regained the elusive gold after 16 long years. Spain had to be content with the Fairplay Trophy.

The 16 goals scored by centre forward Surinder Singh Sodhi in the 1980 Moscow Olympics is the highest tally by an Indian in an Olympic hockey competition. It beat the earlier record of 15 goals set by the great Udham Singh in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.

India`s performance in the 1980 Olympics at Moscow:

  • Played: 6

  • Won: 4

  • Drawn: 2

  • Goals For: 43

  • Goals Against: 9

  • About 26 years have passed and India has never got any Olympic medal, after its previous wins. Since the 1970`s Australia, The Netherlands, and Germany have dominated the sport at the Olympics.