10 Jeje Lalpekhlua
- Place of Birth
- Date of Birth
- Joined Since
Back in 2007 when Pune FC was busy sifting through the who’s who of Indian football, a relatively unknown name in Jeje Lalpekhlua turned out to be first signing. It has been five years since then and today both Pune FC and young Jeje have made rapid strides in Indian football.
Born in a village – Hnahthial, located to the south of Mizoram (a five-hour drive from Aizawl) the striker always wanted to be a footballer since his childhood. Being the youngest of his family, Jeje obviously turned out to be the pet and had his way, though the fact remains that his uncle F Lianhmingthanga represented Mizoram in the Santosh Trophy and once scored a goal against a visiting Russian team at Bordoloi.
Apart from his uncle, his father Jeje Sr. and brother often turned out for Model Sporting Club on the same team for which the young Mizo himself debuted four months after his father retired.
However, Lalpekhlua’s angst to play was initially controlled by his parents who insisted he should back his talent with education and it was only after he passed his class tenth examination that his father allowed him to pursue football as a career by letting the youngster join the Ari Football Academy in Aizwal.
The striker participated in the Wai Wai Cup, which is a big football tournament in his state of birth, as part of the academy team and soon his talent was noticed, which led to him being selected for the Mizoram Under-19 team. He made rapid progress from there on and was soon selected for the India Under-19 team before signing for Pune FC as a sixteen-year old prodigy.
The Indian International returned to Pune FC last year after having spent a season (2010-11) on loan with the Indian Arrows, an AIFF developmental squad with the vision of qualifying for the Olympics. Interestingly, it was during this on-loan period that Jeje debuted for India’s Under-23 team, in a pre-Olympic qualifier against Myanmar. He also scored on debut for the senior team against Chinese Taipei during the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers in Malaysia.
The pacy and skillful forward starred for the Arrows and ended the 2010-11 campaign as the top scorer (13 goals; 15 games) amongst Indian players, proving a handful for defenders across the league. This performance won him the “FPAI Young Player” award.
Last season also saw the player, who considers Bhaichung Bhutia and Cristiano Ronaldo as his idols, establish himself in the senior National squad where his predatory skills in front of goal, ability to hold on to the ball as well as his movement off it has seen him being labeled as the best upcoming footballer in the country.
Jeje became the first Pune FC player to captain the national side when he led the Indian Under-22 side into the AFC U-22 Championship 2013 Qualifiers in Oman in June 2012. The striker inspired India to a third place finish in the group.
Lalpekhlua considers his father and Colm Toal, the former National Technical Director of Football, as the biggest influences on his life and career as the duo showed faith in his abilities at different junctures of his career. It was coach Toal, the in charge of India’s Under-16 and Under-19 teams, who first spotted Jeje at an Under-19 selection camp in Gwalior four years ago, and took him to Iran for the AFC qualifiers as a 16 year old!
Jeje – Pune FC’s “Under-23 Player of the Year 2009-10″ - featured in both exhibition games against Blackburn Rovers (at Pune; 7th October, 2011) and FC Bayern Munich (at New Delhi; 10th January, 2012).
The Mizo, who is the youngest of three siblings, finds it very difficult to stay away from the playing field and if not playing football then he does like to indulge in a game of Badminton.