‘I really missed being on the pitch’: Jeje Lalpekhlua eyes solid comeback
At a time when the Indian football team is crippled by injuries to key players, striker Jeje Lalpekhlua has sparked a ray of hope for head coach Igor Stimac by saying that he is hopeful of making a comeback to football very soon.
Jeje, one of India’s key forwards alongwith skipper Sunil Chhetri, aggravated his knee injury which has been bothering him since the 2012 AFC Asian Cup and, thereafter, has not been part of Stimac’s plans in the King’s Cup or the Intercontinental Cup.
The 28-year old also missed his club Chennaiyin FC’s AFC Cup game against Abahani Dhaka Ltd earlier in the year as he underwent a surgery in May.
“I had a good surgery. The knee has been bothering me for quite some time. It was since 2012 that I have had a knee problem during my Pune FC days,” Jeje said on Friday from Chennai.
“I cannot comment on whether I will be able to make it to the first game for Chennaiyin right now as I have an assessment in a few days’ time,” he added.
Chennaiyin take on FC Goa away on October 23 in the sixth edition of the Indian Super League which begins on October 20.
Jeje endured a disastrous season last year as he struggled to find the goals.
“I have to work really hard. It has been a bit of a long layoff for me and I really missed being on the pitch, playing for India and my club. I am raring to go and I know what I have to do to redeem myself,” the Mizoram striker said.
India, taking part in the World Cup qualifiers, will host Bangladesh on October 15 in their third Group E game. The Sunil Chhetri-led side narrowly lost to Oman in Guwahati before holding Asian champions Qatar to a famous 0-0 draw.
But Stimac has been dogged by injuries to key players, the latest being Sandesh Jhingan who was ruled out of the Bangladesh tie. Rahul Bheke was ruled out earlier.
In the game against Qatar, Chhetri was indisposed and could not play while Ashique Kuruniyan and Amarjit Singh were ruled out of both the Oman and Qatar matches.
To add to this, up front the team is heavily reliant on Chhetri who is now 35.
“I hope Chhetri bhai plays for another 10 years. He is so fit, so he can,” Jeje said.
“He is such an insipration. The team has been doing so well in the recent past and he deserves a lot of credit for that.”
In the absence of Jeje, the likes of Manvir Singh, Balwant Singh and Farukh Choudhary are the forwards in the squad, besides Chhetri.
“I think they are all very good. They have proved themselves and that’s why they are there. The team has been doing really well and every department has clicked,” Jeje said.
On Stimac, whom he is yet to play under, Jeje said: “He wished me a speedy recovery. I am looking forward to playing under him but as I said, I have to work really hard for that,” he added.