After lengthy injury layoff, Jeje Lalpekhlua is eager to make up for lost time

Having missed out on playing competitive football for the entirety of last season, ‘Mizo Sniper’ Jeje Lalpekhlua is raring to return to action with SC East Bengal in Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2020-21. A two-time Hero ISL champion with his former club Chennaiyin FC, the Indian striker believes that he has nothing to prove to anyone but himself as he embarks on a new challenge with the Kolkata giants.  

“I don’t need to prove anything to anyone, but myself. It is a new club, a new challenge, and I want to give everything. What I hope for most is to give the fans good memories of our first season [in the Hero ISL],” Jeje was quoted as saying by livemint.com.

The second highest Indian goal-scorer (23) in Hero ISL history, Jeje recalled the agony of watching the Marina Machans play in last season’s final as Chennaiyin FC eventually lost to ATK FC. “A few times, I had to switch off the television. It’s not the nicest feeling to watch your friends play while you are in bed,” the striker said.

After suffering a ligament injury early in his career and aggravating it further by playing beyond the pain barrier, Jeje turned to Dr Silio Musa for his rehabilitation in Italy. “The techniques were slightly different from the usual physiotherapy,” said Jeje, who did part of his rehabilitation at the Centre for Sports Science in Chennai.

READ: After an emotional departure from Chennaiyin, Jeje eyes return to match fitness

His complete road to recovery, though, was far from easy and Jeje had to endure many tough moments on his way back to fitness. “On the lowest days, you don’t want to do rehab. It’s the same routine. But that is where your mentality comes in: you have to think of your knee, you have to think of not losing at this, not after everything you’ve already given,” he shared.

However, despite the setbacks, it did little to dampen Jeje’s resolve. In fact, the striker feels that he’s become a stronger person following his lengthy spell on the sidelines. Now viewed as a senior and experienced member in the dressing room, the 29-year-old is happy to give advice to the rising stars of Indian football.

“I tell the boys that for the smallest problem, go to a doctor, and talk about it. Youngsters want to beat the pain barrier and keep going especially if the coach is playing you. But that can result in long-term damage. And later, when you are in a big building doing your exercises while the team is together, it gets lonely and you need to be constantly positive, and try not to let your mind go over to the dark side,” he said.

Happy to be back and involved in the beautiful game once again, Jeje revealed that he no longer takes anything for granted and doesn’t take training sessions lightly. “That feeling of touching the grass, touching a ball, it’s just amazing. I can’t quite explain it in words. But sometimes when you are made to run in training, you complain. Now I don’t do that. Because when you come back after a serious injury, you appreciate how lucky you are to just run. Now I train as if every session is my last,” he said.

Jeje will have the opportunity to mark his return to the Hero ISL on November 27, when SC East Bengal takes on ATK Mohun Bagan FC at the Tilak Maidan Stadium.

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