It's been 20 years since former India hockey goalkeeper Jude Menezes moved base from Orlem (Malad) in Mumbai to New Zealand. He may have left the country, but not his passion — hockey.
Jude, stuck to his first love and started coaching local clubs before taking up the role of assistant coach of the New Zealand women’s hockey team.
Just a couple of months ago, Jude landed his first major assignment when he was approached to coach Japan’s women’s team. He had no second thoughts and jumped at it immediately.
From Orlem to New Zealand to Japan. But it was in Oman when Jude’s girls claimed their third Asia Cup Women’s Hockey title. Jude was elated, first major assignment and the team returned victorious.
Free Press Journal fired a few questions to Jude while he was on his way back to Japan from Oman.
Excerpts from that interview:
It's been just a few months since you took over and then comes the victory, did you expect your girls to win?
Our focus has been performance. All I ask is that the girls be the best that they can be. We don't focus on outcomes. If we deliver strong, consistent performances to the best of our abilities, the outcome usually looks after itself.
When compared with India, how different is the hockey infrastructure in Japan?
It's quite structured right from school competitions, U21, development to the elite athletes. The top athletes in the women's national programme are employed by big corporation teams (similar to India).
Is there a sufficient pool of talent to choose from?
Yes, there is a good number of hockey teams and players so there is enough. Also, you have to make do with what you have. You have to develop from the numbers you have. Development is a big part of ensuring that the program runs successfully.
Did Covid-19 pandemic pose any challenges while preparing for the tournament?
Yes, it has been a challenge. We mitigated it by having a 10-day heat camp in Oman before the tournament so we could prepare well. That seems to have paid off.
Japan beat India 2-0 in the league game, how would you analyse the Indian team considering their performance at the Olympics?
The Indian team is very good and is playing some good hockey. The margins are pretty small in international hockey and eventually it comes down to your performance on the day. We defended well and put away our chances, which eventually was the difference on that day.
With Asian Games being next, how do you plan to carry on the momentum?
We have a selection camp in mid-February to select the squads for the World cup and Asian Games. Once the squad is selected, we will begin our preparation and aim at improving and getting better.
Are you planning a trip to India for a Test series?
No plans at the moment due to travel risks but will definitely look forward to playing a test series in India.