When Baichung announced his retirement, football pundits across the nation started a search for his replacement. India had struggled to scoreAi??in AFC Asia Cup in the absence of their talismatic captain. Baichung’s absence saw the rise of Indian Football’s next superstar- Jeje Lalpekhlua. After impressing with the U-23 team, Jeje walked into the senior team and made the second striker spot his own and cemented his place in the team. TheHardTackle places the 21 year old diminutive Mizo striker under the microscope after he was announced as theAi??skipperAi??of the India U-23 team and sees what is the road ahead for him

Early Life and Start of Football Career

Born on 7 January 1991 in the small village of Hnahthial in Mizoram, it would not be wrong to say that Jeje inheritedAi??football genesAi??from his family. HisAi??father and elder brother played for a local Mizo club – The Model Sporting ClubAi??while his uncle represented Mizoram in SantoshAi??Trophy. Jeje made his debut for theAi??Model Sporting Club four months after his dad retired from the club.

Despite facing initial hesitation from his parents for playing football, Jeje came to light after a spectacular performance at theAi??Wai Wai Cup held in Mizoram.Ai??On account of his strong performance JejeAi??made it to the Mizoram U-19 team and then, as the popular cliche goes, he never looked back. Jeje impressed youth coach Colm Toal at the U-19 selection camp in Gwalior and got selectededAi??forAi??U-19 qualifiers.Ai??Jeje wasAi??thenAi??spotted by the Pune FC scouts and he signed for the RedAi??LizardsAi??at the tender age of 16. Ai??Jeje then went on to captain the U-19 team in the SAFF Games.

India U-23 Team And Indian Arrows : Jeje Announces his Arrival

It was with the U-23 team andAi??Indian Arrows, both under Desmond BulpinAi??that Jeje announced his arrival on the big stage with prolific scoring rate. InAi??an Olympic qualifier matchAi??againstAi??MyanmarAi??he scored the first goal as India won 2-1Ai??to progess to the next round. In second round Jeje proved to be a constant thorn for mighty Qatar defense and scored the first goal of the tie as India took a 1-0 lead over QatarAi??to their home stadium. Though India lost the tie, Jeje over the course of two matches had truly come of age.Ai??SoonAi??Armando Colaco took note ofAi??his performanceAi??and promoted him to the second striker spot in the senior team.

Jeje Jeje

Jeje was a bright light for Arrows

 

The fact that Jeje had an excellent season with Arrows can be judged by the fact that he scored 13 goals in 15 matches for the Arrows in the I-League. Ai??Jeje formed aAi??telepathicAi??understandingAi??withAi??midfielders Lalrindika Ralte and Jewel Raja. Thankfully, the trio has carriedAi??same momentum to the senior team as well. Jeje scored four goals against Air-India and backed it up with a hat-trick against HAL to end as the top Indian goal-scorer of the I-League 2010-2011.Ai??He was deservedly awarded the FPAI Young Player of the year award for the season

Stint with the Senior Team

At the age of 21 Jeje is already an integral member of the national team and has forged a strong partnership with Sunil ChhetriAi??upfront.Ai??For the first time in recent history the national team has two quality strikers who can serve the nation for years to come. Jeje made his debut against Ai??Chinese Ai??Taipei in AFC Challenge Qualifiers,Ai??scoring on his debut to give India a 1-0 lead. He followed it up with a braceAi??againstAi??arch-rivals Pakistan and an equalizer against Turkmenistan to ensure that India topped the group. Jeje ended as the joint top-scorer of the event.

Having cemented his place , Jeje remained an integral member of the squad underAi??ColacoAi??as he scored a gem of goal against UAE in the Indian leg of the qualifier. SAFF cup saw Jeje score two moreAi??goals taking his tally to 8 goals from 16 matches, at a creditable strike-rate of .5 . Before SAFFAi??cupAi??Jeje and Sunil were invited to aAi??weekAi??long trial at Rangers and though nothing materialized ,Ai??itAi??symbolizedAi??his growing stature in Indian Football. Jeje remains a key player and this is what U-22 coach Arthur PappasAi??had to sayAi??about him

JejeAi??is a player I have much respect for simple for the manner he conducts himself on and off the field. He is the type of character you enjoy working with as a Coach.He has a great future ahead of him and needs the correct guidance to manage his body.

 

Club Career

In a short yet and fruitful career with Pune FC so far, Jeje has slowly established himself as a first-choice striker. Having missed most of this season due to injury, Jeje made a comeback late inAi??last season. Before getting injured he scored crucial goals against Dempo and Sporting. Having played 28 I-League games, Jeje has scored 9 goals in the I-League so far for the Red-Lizzards. Needless to say, his best is yet to come for Pune FC.

Strengths and Contribution to National Team

Jeje’ s main strength lies in the fact that he can hold the ball and shieldAi??it – a rare quality in Indian Football players, who are more comfortable with the long ball style. Jeje’ sAi??ability toAi??retain possession has beenAi??a key feature in India’s latest matches and it allows other strikers to make off the ball runs .Ai??He is not shy to drop back to help the midfield, asAi??it was evidentAi??in the match against UAE when India was reduced to 9 men.Ai??A clinicalAi??finisher,Ai??Jeje has all qualities to become aAi??the next big thingAi??in Indian Football

Jeje and Chhetri : Forging a Great Combination Upfront !!

Jeje and Chhetri : Forgoing a Great Combination Upfront !!

 

HisAi??understandingAi??with Sunil as well as former U-23 teammates like Dika, Jewel Raja and Raju Gaikwad alsoAi??augurs well for the future, as these players will form theAi??nucleusAi??of the team in coming years.

The Road Ahead

While many believe that Jeje is yet to properly fulfill his potential, the fact remains that he is indispensable for the Blue Tigers. Such has been Jeje’s impact on the team thatAi??theyAi??failed to score a single goal in his absenceAi??in the AFC Challenge Cup. AsAi??India looks to adopt to theAi??possessionAi??style advocated by new coach Wim Koevermans, Jeje with his particular skill-setAi??is set to be one of the mainstays for future.

Jeje’s experience with the senior team would beAi??beneficialAi??for the other U-22 players in the team, as they have already played under his captaincy before.Ai??Jeje certainly has the talent to play abroad and such a move would no doubt hone his skills. Some day he might follow the path ofAi?? Baichung and Chhetri. Ai??A move abroad would definitely beAi??on Jeje’s mind and the football fans across the nation will hope that such a move will materialize in future.

TheHardTackle family wishes JejeAi??Lalpekhlua best of luck for his career ahead and hopes he would bring smiles on the faces of Indian Football fans who will no doubt be keeping a close eye on him

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  • rindao

    someting went wrong in article, he is mizo not manipuri,

    • Rahul Bhutani

      Thanks a lot I have corrected it

  • Rahul S

    Excellent article. BTW Je Je is a Mizo and not a Manipuri.

    • Rahul Bhutani

      Thanks Rahul.. The mistake has been corrected and thanks for pointing it out

  • jovi

    Nice article…but rahul bhai..kaise galti kar sakte ho. He is not diminutive Manipuri but well 5’9 inch tall Mizo..huh!

    • Rahul Bhutani

      Thanks Jovi .. the mistake is corrected.. Changed Manipuri to Mizo and well you would agree 5.9 is not a tall enough height for strikers..

      Glad that you liked it..

    • meehenba

      it seems u dont kno nothing about indian player statistics.ol da manipuris in indian team are taller den jeje.but im also a big fan of jeje

  • jovi

    @rahul…5’9 is more than enough i guess as all the great strikers have been even below that height. And u cannot call 5’9 a diminutive. BTW well written article again