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Olympic Field Hockey Controversies

By Craig Schmidt

(LifeWire) - Olympic field hockey usually doesn't attract much notice in the United States, but even during the tragic and otherwise controversial 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, the gold-medal match gained more (negative) attention than it normally would have.

Q: Why Were 11 Pakistanis Banned in 1972?

A: Beginning in 1968, Olympic officials have dealt harshly with any kind of protest during or after an event. So what did the Pakistani Olympic field hockey team do just four years later?

In a different year, the controversy over the 1972 Olympic field hockey final might have received even more jeers from around the world. After all, 11 Pakistani players wound up with lifetime suspensions, which, after a high-level apology, were reduced to two years. But these were the Munich Olympics, in which the biggest competition-related controversy by far was the decision to resume the games after the slaying of 11 Israelis in the Olympic Village. A distant second on the controversy scale was a series of refereeing decisions that helped the Soviet Union defeat the United States in men's basketball. Probably third, at least in the United States, was the banning from the games of US sprinters Vincent Matthews and Wayne Collett for what some said was disrespectful behavior on the medals stand.

Nonetheless, amid all the carnage and bickering, the Olympic field hockey final was ugly enough to merit second-paragraph mention in Time magazine's lengthy debriefing of these unpleasant games, "How to Save the Olympics." It also warranted four paragraphs in The Washington Post, without even a mention of who scored the only goal, in a story headlined "Field Hockey Loss Angers Pakistanis."

Michael Krause's goal in the 60th minute gave the host West Germans a 1-0 victory in the final over the defending champion Pakistanis. Pakistan's players did not like some of the umpiring and disagreed that Krause's goal was good. After the game, Pakistani fans ran onto the field in rage; some players and fans dumped water on Belgium's Rene Frank, then the head of the sport's international governing body. During the medals ceremony, the players staged their protest, some of them turning their backs to the West German flag. Reports also mention that the Pakistani players handled their silver medals disrespectfully. According to the story in The Washington Post, the team's manager, G.R. Chaudhry, said that his team thought the outcome had been "pre-planned" by the officials, Horacio Servetto of Argentina and Richard Jewell of Australia.

Soon after, Chaudhry apologized, sort of, by saying, "We are the victims. If there is some doubt in the mind of the Germans about the misunderstanding, then I apologize. The boys were only mad at the umpiring, and the crowd influenced them more. These boys are champions, and they meant no disrespect either to the German people, the government or the flag."

Until 1972, Pakistan or India had won every Olympic field hockey gold medal since 1928.

Return to Olympic Field Hockey Main Page

LifeWire, a part of The New York Times Company, provides original and syndicated online lifestyle content. Craig Schmidt has been a sports writer or editor for more than 30 years on daily newspapers.
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