SILIGURI: As a scorer, Jeje Lalpekhlua believes in a simple philosophy: “What’s important to me is the number of goals scored instead of being scorer of some beautiful, eye-catching goals.”
Winner of Indian Super League title with Chennaiyin FC in 2015, in between the I-League crown and Federation Cup with Mohun Bagan, the Mizo striker’s performance graph in recent past has been nothing but magical and memorable.
Yet, some memories are still there which make him pause for a thought, often in self-retrospection and in anguish.
If the beauty of football lies in giving a player a second chance, Jeje will return to the Kanchenjungha Stadium on Sunday, hoping to erase one bad memory from his recent phenomenal past.
On April 2 in 2016 – the last time Siliguri hosted the high-voltage clash between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal – Jeje was presented with a glorious chance to earn Mohun Bagan, trailing 1-2 until the injury time, a last-gasp equalizer and help his team stay on track for defending the I-League title.
East Bengal defender Sehnaj Singh pulled Jeje down inside the box in the fourth minute of injury time, prompting referee M Santosh Kumar to award a penalty, and Jeje stepped up to take the kick from the spot himself. But it was an awfully executed penalty kick and East Bengal goalkeeper Luis Barreto had no difficulty in making the save in what virtually turned out to be the last kick of the action-packed match.
“Missing a penalty is only part of the game,” Jeje merely said when reminded of that incident in the build-up to the latest derby between the two traditional rivals. “Instead of brooding over it, we must move on and look forward to the next opportunity,” he added.
Even during the first 15 minutes of Mohun Bagan’s warm-up session at the Kanchenjungha Stadium, allotted for public viewing on Saturday, Jeje was seen pausing for a few seconds on entering the same box while he was running along with other team members.
Jeje remains tight-lipped as he seeks his moment of redemption, but his coach Sanjoy Sen brushed aside the suggestion that his team would seek “revenge” on Sunday.
“There is nothing called revenge. In winning a championship, you need to win every match but it’s not realistically possible. The I-League title does not depend on this match. This derby is nothing more than another match – an important one definitely – where our objective is to get three points. If it doesn’t happen, it won’t be the end of the road for us,” Sen said.