Published By: Ritayan Basu
Last Updated: April 11, 2023, 15:22 IST
For ex-India footballer Jeje Lalpekhlua, who belongs to Mizoram, football is developing in the country at a quick pace, especially in his home region. The ‘Mizo Sniper’, as he is fondly called, has played for many clubs in India like Pune FC, Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, Chennaiyin FC, Dempo FC and Pailan Arrows during his celebrated career, feels the advent of the Reliance Foundation Development League (RFDL) has given hopes to many young players to become professional footballers.
Mizoram has been a hotbed of Indian football and its ecosystem has recently been boosted with many grassroots and developmental leagues including the RFYC and MFA jointly organised Naupang League.
“In the last five to six years, I have seen football has developed across the country, especially for the youngsters. And, recently, I have noticed a lot of young kids coming up, and wanting to become professional footballers, especially after RFDL has come to Mizoram.”
The ex-India footballer recalled his struggles in the early phase of career and emphasised on the importance of having more game time and good preparation for a more holistic growth of players.
“I think the boys need to have more game time and good preparation. Reliance Foundation and Mizoram Football Association have been really nice in setting up everything so well. At this age, I didn’t have these types of games, training, facilities and everything. I want to see a lot of young boys from RFDL, represent our country in future, “he said.
“At this U-21 age many boys don’t get the game time. When I was 21, I struggled for these kinds of facilities in many clubs. In our country, you don’t have the young kids getting much time but now they have a good setup. I think with this league, a lot of boys are improving. I feel this is one of the most important age categories for the players to become professional footballers,” he added.
From my experience, I would like to say that I had to struggle but these boys are lucky to get this opportunity to play in the league at the best grounds of Mizoram. So they need to keep using this experience for their growth and represent the country in future,” Jeje said.
Talking about the RFDL tournament and its inclusiveness for opportunities across regions, Jeje mentioned that boys from villages are getting a lot of exposure to express themselves.
“So, we are so lucky to have RFDL in our country. In Mizoram, most of the boys who are playing in this league come from villages. Like I said, they didn’t have any kind of opportunity to express themselves. I think this is the best chance for them to express themselves. The two top teams from this league will represent our state Mizoram and if they keep doing well, then they’re going to play against one of the best players in the world in the Next Gen Cup,” he said.
Now that we have RFDL in Mizoram, I hope a lot of more players come up and get good opportunities to get selected to a lot of bigger clubs in the ISL and I-League. So I would like to congratulate and thank the organisers of RDFL,” he concluded.