Thursday, April 3, 2014

Got to be realistic about our World Cup chances: Jude Felix

This piece was published in

Hockey career seemed to have come a full circle for Jude Felix. Two decades ago the gentle-man player Jude Felix led India to the fifth position in the World Cup at Sydney. A five position climb from disastrous Lahore campaign (1990). Revival of hockey was talked about then. Now, after having long stints in distant Singapore, he is back in the news and not without reasons.

He is now part of the 2014 World Cup preparation team.Jude always wanted to give back something to the game he played with distinction. One of the options was to coach the national side. It took long time for his dreams to translate into reality, but the former Indian midfielder is more than happy to wear the coaching hat.It feels great to be connected with the national players. I always wanted to coach the national side and I’m glad that this opportunity came along. The first few days at the camp has been quite good and the boys are raring to go,” he says in an exclusive interview.

The crafty former India playmaker brings loads of experience to the Indian support staff table, which comprises the likes of head coach Terry Walsh, assistant coach MK Kaushik and High Performance Manager Roelant Oltmans. Felix played for India at the 1988 Seoul Olympics , 1992 Barcelona Olympics, 1990 Lahore World Cup, 1994 Sydney 1994, 1994 Hiroshima Asiad beside representing the country in the premier Champions Trophy on a few occasions.

Clearly, the appointment of Felix as assistant coach replacing Vasudevan Baskaran is expected to further shore up the Indian preparations for the 2014 World Cup.We have got a robust coaching staff and everybody is chipping in to ensure the boys are at their best for the future battles ahead,he quips.

There is line of thinking that the three-month probation period isn’t perhaps ideal, but Felix has no complains. “I was called up to do a job, if I’m good I will stay if I’m not, I will go it’s as simple as that. I think three months is adequate time for people who matter to assess my performance. You got to understand that I’m taking up a role as an assistant coach, but yes if you are named head coach of any team and given three months to deliver, then it may not be enough time to prove your worth. So, I’m only looking forward to giving my best shot and not pay heed to such thoughts,” he calls spade a spade.

Felix, who is best remembered for scoring India’s goal in their 1-1 draw against Germany at the 1998 Seoul Olympics, has a decent history of performing well against Germany.I agree I have always done well against Germany, not just the 1988 Seoul Olympics, I have always fared well against them be it scoring goals which is not my main forte or creating opportunities upfront,” he reminisces.

The conversation veers towards the 2014 World Cup and Felix, who made his senior international debut during the 1985 Four Nations Tournament in England, wastes no time in pressing the ‘realistic button’. “Like our head coach Terry Walsh had said we have to be realistic in what we want to achieve. There is no point in doling out tall hopes and then falter to attain them. We have a promising bunch of players and it will only be a matter of time before we are counted among the top hockey nations of the world,” he puts forth his views.

The Indian team has in recent times has shown the propensity to leak early goals in big games and are rendered ineffective by top sides who makes us pay heavily for that.We will have to work on our defence. We will be putting a lot of focus on this area in our camp and I’m sure the boys are going to sort out the shortfalls and come good at the World Cup,” he observes.

A disappointing plight of Indian hockey is that the statistics of Indian hockey players are far off from being well documented. And Jude concurs. “Look, if you ask me how many internationals I have played for India I know I played more than 250 for the country but can’t precise tell the number of internationals I had played for the nation. Same for the number of goals I have scored for the country. I hope statistics of our players are well documented as it can motivate the players,” the former HAL and Indian Railways employee signed off.
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