Saturday, Dec 20, 2014

Ex-India goalkeeper awaits Chak De! moment — as coach of New Zealand women’s team

Jude Menezes at the ODI match. Daksh panwar Jude Menezes at the India-New Zealand ODI match (IE Photo Daksh panwar)
Written by Daksh Panwar | Auckland | Posted: February 3, 2014 5:50 am | Updated: February 3, 2014 8:06 am

As the recent India-New Zealand ODI match at Eden Park ended in a tie, Jude Menezes had a knowing smile on his face. The former India goalkeeper knows a thing or two about close games. He saw his lifelong dream of an Olympic medal end with a last-minute goal by Poland at Sydney 2000. The match India thought they had in the bag ended in a 1-1 tie, and the team lost out on a semi-final spot to Korea on a head-to-head record after the two teams were tied on points. By the time the tournament ended, the Koreans were wearing silver medals around their neck.

Menezes quit the game a couple of years later, left India and settled in Auckland. He started a new life, new business — of nutritional supplements — and managed a gym. But he could not forget hockey.

“I grew up playing hockey. It was the only thing I did in my life,” said Menezes. So when he got the opportunity to join a local club as a hockey coach, he promptly agreed. A few years later, he closed his business and joined the Auckland women’s hockey team as its assistant coach. Last year, Menezes became the team’s head coach and roughly six months later, in January, he was appointed the goalkeeping coach of the New Zealand women’s team.

With the second chance, his Olympic dream is back. “Rio is a long way off. It’s still two years. There are a lot of events between now and then,” he said. “Right now the focus is on this year. We have three huge events lined up: the World Cup in The Hague in June, the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in July-August and the Champions Trophy in Mendoza, Argentina, in late November,” he added.

“I don’t know if a goalkeeping coach will be called an Olympic medal winner, but yes, I do hope I help them win an Olympic medal. It will be a huge achievement. It was a dream that I couldn’t fulfill as a player,” said Menezes. “If it happens, the medal will be a real life ‘Chak De!’ moment for me. It will be awesome,” he said.

While Menezes is passionate about Indian hockey, his sons Brett (13) and Matt (5) seem to prefer cricket. Brett is, in fact, taking cricketing lessons from former New Zealand player Dipak Patel at Howick Pakuranga Cricket Club in Auckland.

The New Zealand women’s team is among the top teams, having seen a marked improvement post-Beijing where they finished 12th. With former Aussie great Mark Harger hired as their coach, the team won the Commonwealth Games’ silver in Delhi, finished third in the Champions Trophy and very nearly won the breakthrough Olympic medal in the London, only to be denied by hosts England in the bronze playoff.

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