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Jeje: This is only the start

New Delhi: India striker Jeje Lalpekhlua was sitting far away in Goa when Mizoram trounced Railways in the Santosh Trophy final, in Siliguri, on Sunday. Yet, when the players went to receive the winners’ trophy after the match, the striker from Mizoram had tears in his eyes.

“I never felt so emotional in my career,” the Dempo striker told The Telegraph on Monday.

“I had no contribution in the victory but I still felt the trophy was mine. The victory was a triumph for every person of the Mizoram state… It is a proud moment for us. I was also a part of it,” said the All India Football Federation (AIFF)’s Emerging Player of the Year award 2013.

Jeje, however, was humble enough to say that it was not him but Shylo Malsawmtluanga, who made Mizoram players believe that they, too, can make it to the top.

“Mama is a classy footballer, a regular with East Bengal. It was his success story that inspired players like Dika (Lalrindika Ralte) and I to venture into top level football,” he said.

Jeje strongly believe the Sunday’s final was only the beginning of the Mizoram success story.

“Thankfully, the structure of Mizoram football is now very strong. They have a good and productive league. Currently, around 20 Mizoram players playing in the I League. In the next five years, many more would come. Mizoram would be the toughest team to beat in Santosh Trophy.”

The Dempo footballer pointed out that the junior programmes in Mizoram are doing a lot of good for the promotion of the game. “This season, we also won the BC Trophy (under-17) with a thumping win over Assam.”

In Mizoram, Jeje said, football remains the most popular sport.