INDIAN FOOTBALL

Former Indian striker Jeje Lalpekhlua speaks on his retirement, injuries, and regrets

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Jeje Lalpekhlua made Fifty-six appearances for India, 23 goals, four international trophies, and many club titles. With a resume like this, it’s rare to see a footballer apologize to his supporters for falling short of their expectations. But so was the immensity of Jeje Lalpekhlua‘s ability and flair.

In his prime, Jeje was an absolute bulldozer of a striker, but he was plagued by a knee ailment that he sustained early in his career. After years of playing despite severe agony and reaching the summit of Indian football, the ‘Mizo Sniper’ chose to call it quits.

On Friday, February 17, the 32-year-old announced his retirement from professional football after spending almost a year in seclusion, away from the spotlight.

Interview with Jeje

In an interview, Jeje described his stream of thinking that drove him to resist the eventual conclusion for years. His journey began in a tiny village in the Hnahthial area. To finish in a single day had been confusing for months.

The former National Team Striker explained,

“I have never made a harder decision in my life. I had been thinking about this [retirement] for a long time. But it has been my dream since childhood — to play professional football and then represent my country. So to bring it all to an end in just one day, I was very sad. That’s why I didn’t announce my retirement earlier”.

As the years passed and the youthful energy faded, the knee problems became more severe. His explosiveness had worn off, but his efficiency allowed him to continue operating at the top level.

“I tried a lot to fix my knee. Met so many physios and doctors in India. I even traveled to Italy. But nothing worked,”

Jeje lamented.

Although being plagued by injuries, Jeje’s technical virtuosity seemed to shine the brightest whether he was playing for Mohun Bagan, Chennaiyin FC, or the national squad. The small striker tormented defenders far greater in height than him.

As he concludes possibly India’s most heartbreaking “What if” career, our beloved Mizo Sniper retires as the state’s most decorated player. Nonetheless, there is a gleam of optimism in Jeje’s voice as he tells the interviewer that his footballing career is far from done.

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