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The Pune FC striker was a relieved man after making the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers squad, and stressed that his injury issues were now a thing of the past...

Wim Koevermans named his 23-member squad for the 2013 AFC Challenge Cup qualifier on Sunday, and the most notable inclusion was that of Jeje Lalpekhlua.

The Pune FC striker had been out of favour since the Dutchman took-over the Blue Tigers, but found his way into the squad this time round.

The forward was happy at being called up to the camp by Wim Koevermans and stressed how keen he was to prove his worth to the side on the field.

“Yeah ofcourse (I have to do well), since after a longtime I was called up by the coach, so I have to prove myself to the coach, the management and the team also.”

“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.I see this as a new beginning and will work harder and wait for my chance,” he added.

The former Indian Arrows striker was happy with how the training camp in Pune went, but felt the injuries and the departure of the East Bengal and Churchill Brothers players for club duty, was a slight problem.

The striker is happy with his fitness levels...

“The training camp has been fantastic, though we didn’t have much time (with the complete squad). We have had a lot of problems, with players getting injured and then players from Churchill Brothers and East Bengal left for the AFC Cup,” Jeje told Goal.com

The Pune FC player also felt that the camp helped him improve his fitness levels while also helping him work on other aspects of his game. He said, “For me, I got injured for a long time and I am back in the team after almost 8 months. I had to improve my movement, pace and other aspects of my game. But I think I have improved a lot. Now I am 100% fit.”

Giving his opinion on why he had been over-looked in the past couple of national squads while not making a great impact for the Red Lizards, Jeje felt he had been unlucky with injuries and termed it as a horrible season, on a personal level.

“I was out because of injuries. At the start I was in the Pune FC eleven and then I got injured against East Bengal. Then next few games I played but again I picked up an injury against Shillong Lajong. For me it has been a bad season. I hope it is now behind me.”

The player though, never lost hope and revealed that his love for football kept him going. He mentioned, “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.”

India are grouped with hosts Myanmar, Guam and Chinese Taipei, in their group of the Challenge Cup qualifiers. The striker though is optimistic of India’s chances to progress, and hopes to draw on past experience in the competition, to make the main draw in 2014. He commented, “It is a good chance for us to get through. We also had qualified for (the main draw) last time and think we have a good chance this time too.”

Will the duo get a chance to re-ignite their old partnership upfront...

The Pune FC player, who has played against Chinese Taipei and Myanmar before, stressed on how difficult the two sides would make it for the Blue Tigers to achieve their above mentioned targets. He revealed, “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. The Coach has shown us some videos and we need to stick to his plans."

About his own chances of making the starting eleven, Jeje was diplomatic, but stressed that he would look to make an impact, whenever given a chance.

“It depends on the coach. It is important for the team to do well. Whichever striker gets a chance, it is good for the team. If I get a chance to start, I will prove myself,” he concluded.

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