Hopefully, one day, Mizoram will host Indian football team matches: Jeje Lalpekhlua
Mizoram has not been short on producing talented football players for the nation, and Jeje Lalpekhlua is one such name that is not new to the Indian football team and its fans.
Jeje Lalpekhlua Fanai, commonly known as Jeje, is a former Indian footballer who last played as a striker for East Bengal FC in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL). He holds the record for scoring the most number of goals for Chennaiyin FC. Jeje won the 2014-15 I-League with Mohun Bagan and the 2015 Hero ISL with Chennaiyin FC.
Born in a football-fanatic family in Mizoram, Jeje paved his way to the Indian national team while playing for the U19 and U23 teams before making his debut for Indian men's senior national team in 2011.
Sharing their love for football, the people of Mizoram find joy in the sport. Jeje couldn't contain his excitement when he learned that the national team are playing in Imphal, a city rich in football and sports culture that is hosting the Indian national football team in a Tri-Nation competition for the first time in history.
"The craze for the game is fantastic in the NorthEast, so it's great that the tournament is being hosted by Manipur. Hopefully, something similar will happen in Mizoram one day, which will help bring in a lot of fans," Jeje said in an exclusive interview with the Times of India.
The Mizo Sniper is still very much involved in the game. He has a football academy in Mizoram where up to 50 children are currently receiving training to help the youngsters achieve their goal and promote football throughout the country.
“In the last six-seven years, I have been organising summer camps and winter camps for the village kids whenever I come home during the off season,” said the former India player.
Jeje was one of the best strikers in the nation over the previous ten years, winning nearly all of the top club football awards in India. But what really made him famous were his achievements with the national squad. He participated in 56 games, scoring 23 goals.
As part and parcel of the game, injuries had a major impact on Jeje's playing career. The forward suffered a knee injury while playing for Pune FC against Air India in an I-League match in 2012 when he collided with the goalkeeper and has not been the same player since.
"I have never played a game (since 2012) with 100 percent fitness. As a result of my injury, which harmed my confidence and slowed my speed, my shooting also suffered," he said.
He is impressed with the improvements and progress brought about by the Hero ISL within the players and believes the Indian squad will benefit from it and eventually perform well. The young bunch of players look to him as a figure of inspiration, who Jeje feels will only do well with more games in the tank with the national team.
"The squad contains a number of young players, and I am confident that the teams will perform well in the upcoming tournaments. Also, with players getting more games in the coming days, they are sure to do well when playing for the national team,” Jeje stated.