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Jeje and Dika: Tom & Jerry of Indian Football

Thursday, June 23, 2011

/ Published by Simon L Infimate
“Sir, Please may I come in,” someone politely asks from behind the half-shut door. It’s Jeje Lalpeklua standing on the other side. He hands over a Pen-drive. “Could I have the Match Recording and the pictures? Please, if you can give it to me.” His humility is bound to strike you.

A couple of hours later when you knock at his room, Jeje, Lalrindika Ralte and Lalrozama stayed engrossed in the Video Recording of India’s Pre-Olympic first-leg match against Qatar. Some animated discussions in local Mizo dialect go on; I prefer watching from the stands. And after the final whistle, it’s just silence.

I rewind back to Jeje’s goal. “I should have scored another. I should have converted my second chance,” stays his apology. You begin to ponder. Here you are, lauding him for his strike in an away-match and he apologises for not scoring another!

“That’s Jeje Lalpeklua. He’s never satisfied. He always wants more,” Dika adds. Lalrozama follows: “That’s’ why he is already a star — the next Bhaichung Bhutia.”

Jeje interferes. “I have miles to go. Don’t compare Bhaichung with me. He is a Great Player. But I haven’t been able to speak to him as yet. He is my idol.”

Coach Desmond Bulpin adds: “I don’t believe in comparisons. All I can tell you, this kid is a special one. We need to take care of him.”
The bonding between Dika and Jeje goes back to their childhood as both hail from Hnahthial in Mizoram, almost a five-hour drive from Aizawl. Together they make quite a pair. They are lovable; at times they are naughty but are inseparable. All call them the ‘Tom and Jerry.’

Ask them as to who’s Tom and who’s Jerry, you won’t find an answer. All they do is smile, look at each other and smile again.

“The off-field bonding helps,” Jeje informs. “He’s a midfielder, I’m a striker. Our understanding reflects on the field.” Dika goes on: “Even with my head down, I know where’s he on the field. We connect to each other well.”

“You can attribute it to our society. We love to stay together. We make friends easily,” Rozama completes the triangle.
Back in Mizoram, the boys enjoy a huge fan following, especially among the girls. Jeje smiles hesitantly. “That’s his sex-appeal,” Dika winks.

Jeje blushed and went after Dika – I remember ‘Tom and Jerry.’

“Everyday Dika speaks about a new ex-girlfriend,” Jeje puts Dika on the wrong foot. On a serious note, he puts it straight: “We stay in the Camp for most of the year. We go back only for a fortnight. Won’t our girlfriends curse us?” You stay stumped.

“Back home in Mizoram, football stays the sole sport. People were happy over India’s triumph in the Cricket World Cup. But next day, all went to the football match,” Lalrozama switches flanks. “The support from the Government has helped us to have an artificial turf in Mizoram.”

The three Indian Arrows boys have set their eyes abroad. Jeje has already signed up with an agent; the other two are supposed to do it soon. “It’s hard to get a Work-Permit in Europe. I’m keeping my options open,” Jeje expresses.

The trio goes numb for a moment. They try reflecting on their chances of playing abroad. “We need to have more agents,” Raju Gaikwad’s voice echoed in Jeje’s.

Is the 2022 World Cup a realistic dream? “Why not?” Jeje comes back to life. “We all would love to be a part of that team. Even if we can’t, let the others take us there. It ought to happen someday.”

Dika, by then had started replaying the Recording of the Match. Jeje and Lalrozama asked me to join in. They speak in their local Mizo dialect, I understand little. All I understand is that they speak football. Isn’t that the priority?



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