Jeje Lalpekhlua first struck everyone’s eyes when he scored a hat-trick against Pakistan, that too at the age of 19 – in his first tournament. Since then, despite scoring regularly, he was in and out of the national squad till 2015, after which he cemented his place striking a “telepathic understanding” with Sunil Chhetri.
“I played with Sunil-bhai when I made my debut. Since then we have been playing together. I feel, together we fit in well, and complement each other’s styles,” Jeje stated. “He is a gem of a person and an inspirational player. He has helped me a lot on, and off the field. We have a telepathic understanding on the pitch. I know where he is, and he always knows where I am,” he smiled.
India take on Thailand in their opening match of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 and Jeje sounded confident. “This team is a strong one as we have put in a lot of good work so far,” the Mizo Sniper said. “We are confident in our abilities and feel that we can take on any challenge.”
He stated that the side has been improving steadily, and that the progress is there for everyone to see. “Compared to back when I made my debut, there is a lot of difference in the National Team. With every match, we have been getting better and have achieved a lot in between,” he felt.
“I’m very happy to be a part of this team. We worked hard to qualify for the Asian Cup. It is the biggest tournament for us, almost like a World Cup. We hope to do well, and strive for bigger things,” he stated. “In fact, there is still a lot we can do and the AFC Asian Cup is the next step along the way.”
Jeje also spoke about the role played by coach Constantine in the recent upsurge. “The entire team has put in a lot of hard work. He has had the most crucial role to play. When he came in, he had told us that our target was to qualify for the Asian Cup, and we did it.”