All titles are equally special: Menezes
After stint with NZ, success follows in Japan for former India goalkeeper
PUNE: Former India hockey goalkeeper Jude Menezes has seen and played it all – the Olympics, World Cup, Commonwealth Games, Junior World Cup and many more, before turning his eye to coaching. Having retired in 2002 and 133 caps to his name, the Mumbai-born headed Down Under to New Zealand to guide teams at the highest level.
Having gained considerable success at the club level, Jude got associated with the Black Sticks (Women’s Team) serving as an assistant coach, team manager and goalkeeping coach since 2014 and success followed him at the international level as well.
Jude, recently, moved to Japan to take on the role of Head Coach with Sakura Japan (Women). Success continued and led to two continental titles already.
Sportsaction.in caught up with the Sydney Olympian in an exclusive cum nostalgic chat.
What got you to make the switch from New Zealand to Japan?
I have worked in the NZ (New Zealand) program since 2014 and have learnt heaps under a world-class coach like Mark Hager. I felt it was time to take on a new challenge so when the role came up with Sakura Japan, I saw it as a great opportunity to lead a program with a team that plays exciting hockey.
Sakura Japan has been striking gold ever since…
We won gold at the Asian Champions Trophy in December 2021 (held in South Korea - a first after 2013) but India and Malaysia had to pull out due to Covid. However, the win in the Asia Cup in January 2022 (held at Oman - third title after 2013 Malaysia and 2007 Hong Kong) had all the top teams in Asia competing so that made the victory more rewarding.
Sakura Japan champions of the Women's Asia Cup Muscat 2022
Your coaching journey is impressive… With New Zealand (Commonwealth Games 2018 and The Oceania Cup 2019 titles which earned a ticket to Tokyo 2020 Olympics) and now Japan as well. Which one is special?
They all hold a special place as each victory was quite significant. They were all firsts for me so I feel they are all equally special.
Among results which one stands out. A few to ponder on - win v/s England (SFs) Commonwealth Games 2018, win v/s India (SFs) Asian Cup - both leading to titles.
The Commonwealth semi-final was a breakthrough moment as New Zealand had never won a shoot-out before. Going on to win the gold medal and being the first New Zealand women team to do so, made it very special and memorable.
India at the Asian Cup 2022. You saw them at the Tokyo Olympics and now again. Any difference in the side from then and now?
I think, barring one retirement and one injury, it is pretty much the same team that played in the Olympics. The Indian team is strong and plays a good brand of hockey.
How different is women's hockey in New Zealand and Japan? Not just the structure but also the approach towards the sport by women.
Hockey is a popular game among women in both New Zealand and Japan. Both teams have a good number of athletes participating right from the grassroots and have been well represented at Olympic Games and World Cups.
Looking forward... Can you outline what is next with Japan?
We have a training camp coming up in early March and are in the process of finalising some practice matches with international opposition to prepare for the World Cup and Asian Games. The immediate focus is to keep building and take the learnings from our recent successes. Our aim is to keep developing further and put in a strong performance at the World Cup.