Jeje geared up for AFC Challenge qualifiers

Last Updated: Wed, Feb 27, 2013 12:30 hrs

Yangon, Feb 27 (IANS) Having been out of the team for nearly a year due to an ankle injury, India striker Jeje Lalpekhlua is now geared up for the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers starting here March 2.

"Every player sweats it hard to be here. It feels nice and makes me more confident as a player that I am back in the National squad after more than a year. My ankle injury had kept me out of the AFC Challenge Cup in Nepal in March 2012 and since then it has been a battle, more within my own self to be back," said Jeje.

India, who won the Challenge Cup last in 2008, open their campaign against Chinese Taipei at the Youth Training Centre here March 2. They next face Guam (March 4) and hosts Myanmar (March 6).

"As a striker, I'd say to score as many goals as possible. But the AFC Challenge Cup 2014 (Qualifiers) stay the immediate target -- not only for me but for the entire contingent. We are a good unit and need believe in ourselves," he said.

Asked about the competition in the group, Jeje, who in the past has played against Myanmar and Chinese Taipei, said: "I made my Senior India debut against Chinese Taipei in the AFC Challenge Cup in Malaysia in 2011. I remember scoring in the match as we won 2-1. Then, in the U-23 Olympic Qualifiers, I scored against Myanmar in Pune as we went on to win 2-1. I can tell you, both of the teams are very competitive ones and would pose a huge threat. And there's Guam too."

This the first time he has been picked by chief coach Wim Koevermans.

"The first and foremost thing that will appeal to you is his nature. I'd say, as much he is a Coach, he is simultaneously a true gentleman and a very caring human being. That's an extraordinary and a very rare combination, I must say," he said.

Jeje credited the Dutch for improving his game.

"Technically, he has fine-tuned me a lot. He explained to me as to how I could be sharper with my turning and off-the-ball play. I like his style a lot. The Coach has shown us some videos and we need to stick to his plans," he said.

The Pune FC striker said that the the time he spent out of the team due to an injury helped him emerge stronger.

"Football motivated me more than anything else. I just wanted to be back playing again for my club. More than the physical aspect, an injury hits you hard mentally as a player. You start thinking that you won't ever have the strength to be back. Serious doubts kept creeping in. But at the same time, it makes you tougher as a player as you have already seen the worst of times," he said.

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