Indian Football: Jeje Set to Return to Pune FC
Twenty-year-old Jeje Lalpekhlua makes up the perfect eyeball catching ‘nobody to somebody’ story, which literally began four years ago with a simple mission to play football.
Today, enjoying success like never before owing to his on-field commitment as a striker, Jeje calmly giggles at every media driven superlative tagged to his name before saying, “all I aim is to be is a good player and will work hard to get better.” Hard work he did put in, else why would he be the most sought after player by several clubs even as he prepares to resume his journey with Pune FC through the season (2011-12) ahead.
“Pune FC have been very supportive, the management, coach, technical staff, and helped me every time I needed it most all through my career, which still is a long way from attaining its peak,” explains Jeje. He adds, “I am happy that I will be going back to play for Pune FC, the club where I began.”
Having competed four years in Indian football at various level Jeje despite having a string of top class performances at international and national level does not veer away from the belief that success is not determined by a stellar individual, but rather a collection of collaborative efforts.
Jeje in toto agrees to the “big break” Pune FC handed him four seasons’ back, which was an opportunity he so eagerly yearned and dreamt for as a youngster.
“Today the ‘good player’ that I am is because of the initial support given by Pune FC,” says Jeje.
It was back in 2007 that Pune FC General Manager Dr Ashok Kumar at a camp in Goa spotted the Mizoram-born player, who was then just 17 years of age.
Interestingly, Jeje was the first ever player to be signed by Pune FC when incorporated in 2007.
Having signed a one-year contract back then, Jeje double his delight of getting into club football when he was shortlisted in the India Under-19 squad that was picked at Goa for the AFC U-19 Qualification round in Tehran, Iran.
Jeje then spent the entire 2008-09 season training and playing for Pune FC in Second Division I-League with a one-year extended contract, before his next call up to the National squad came in the 2009-10 season. A friendly match between Pune FC and the India U-19s led to Under-19 coach Colm Joseph Toal request for Jeje’s release.
While Jeje went on to stay put with India squad the younger went on to earn his second stint with the squad and subsequently earning him the right to lead the junior India squad. This was the beginning of Jeje’s rise with a result he was included in the India U-23 squad.
At Pune FC, Jeje, retained with a three-year contract, played the club through the Second Division I-League and subsequently live Pune FC’s dream of playing in the elite I-League. In his first year as senior (2009-10), Jeje, earned the distinction of becoming Pune FC’s first I-League scorer goal (2-2 v Sporting Clube de Goa, Round-3, Nehru Stadium) and equalized during a 1-1 draw against Chirag United (Round 20; Kolkata).
Constantly away in the National camp for India’s international commitments meant that Jeje sparingly played. But, when he did he cashed in with every single opportunity with consistency and turned himself into Mr. Dependable.
Not forgetting Pune FC role in promoting him, Jeje adds, “They (PFC) have stood by me and continue to do so even today.”
India’s success at the SAFF Cup in 2009-10, which included Jeje’s individual efforts aplenty led to Pune FC increasing his budget substantially leading to a 3-year extension keeping him at the club (Pune FC) till May 2013. But then, the formation of Indian Arrows by AIFF, which primarily was to develop a Indian team for the future meant Jeje being ‘loaned’ out for a year at the request of the AIFF President Praful Patel.
After a successful stint in 2010-11, Jeje looks to come back to the club from where it all started.