Bengaluru, Dec 22: Jeje Lalpekhlua still remembers the day he was refused by his village boys to play football with them.
He was around 10 years old. The Mizoram lad had a weak physical structure that time. That was the reason his village boys did not allow him to play with them.
On Wednesday, December 21, Jeje after receiving the 2016 AIFF Player of the Year award, Jeje said: “The denial by those friends to allow me to play the game with them converted me to become a footballer. I was determined that I must have to establish myself as a footballer.”
Jeje’s father and elder brother also were football players. His mother, who runs a grocery shop, did not want his son to play the game initially.
Jeje further said: “Actually following my weak physique mother used to get scared whether I will be able to carry on with the game.”
Following his elder brother, Jeje was admitted to Model Sporting Club, the leading club in his state. And an excellent performance in Mizoram's biggest knock-out tournament Wai Wai Cup, Jeje did not have to look back.
He represented Mizoram in the under-19 national championship and following another impressive show in the tournament he was called up in the selection trial for the Indian under-19 team, being conducted by the then under-19 chief national coach Colin Toal.
Jeje added: “Despite being short in height I got the confidence of continuing as a striker only because of Colin Toal.
"During my long stint in the national camp he had taught me some special drills separately which could help me gain speed, reflex and build up peripheral vision.
"And till today, I do those exercises whenever I train alone or during the pre-season training. I have been greatly influenced by Toal.”
The striker who had struck 29 goals in 41 matches in total this season and scored six goals for the country commented: “Since childhood when I began to play in Model Sporting Club, my idol was Shylo Malsawmtiuanga.
"He showed the way for from Mizoram, playing for big clubs and country for the first time. Then I saw the players like Bhaichung Bhutia, Sunil Chettri.
"Today I am very happy to have thought that like those top footballers I have also been awarded footballer of Year.”