Mizoram Football Association seeks clarification on Jeje’s Arjuna Award snub

In a letter addressed to Kiren Rijiju, the Union Minister for Sports and Youth Affairs, the MFA took up the issue after Jeje Lalpekhlua was ignored for the third time.

Jeje Lalpekhlua has earned 56 caps for India, scoring 23 goals.   -  AIFF MEDIA

The Mizoram Football Association (MFA) has stood up for one of its most decorated footballers, Jeje Lalpekhlua, in seeking clarification on why the striker was not conferred the Arjuna Award despite getting nominated on three occasions in the last four years.

In a letter addressed to Kiren Rijiju, the Union Minister for Sports and Youth Affairs, the MFA took up the issue after Jeje conveyed his “shock and dismay” on being ignored for the third time.

Realising that the player felt humiliated at being left out once again, the MFA approached the Sports Minister for “inquiry regarding disregard of Jeje Lalpekhlua for the Arjuna Award”.

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The letter, signed by the MFA secretary Lalnghinglova Hmar, sought clarity on the detailed criteria for finalizing the Arjuna awardees. “While the MFA acknowledges and applauds the Indian footballer awardees; it insists upon the disclosure of the detailed criteria for the Arjuna Award, as well as the explanation to the question 'Why has Jeje Lalpekhlua been overlooked after three separate nominations?’”

“Jeje was nominated for the award by the All India Football Federation in the years - 2017, 2019 and 2020 but on each occasion, the Arjuna Awards committee went for the “lesser capped” players,” the letter argues.

“Jeje has earned 56 caps for India, scoring 23 goals, second only to Sunil Chhetri in the national scoring charts among active players. He is currently ranked sixth on the all-time scorers list. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (2019) and Sandesh Jhingan (2020), who both have earned worthy acclamation through their storied careers, have earned 38 and 36 caps respectively,” was how the letter sought clarity on the selection criteria. If selected, Jeje would have been the first footballer from Mizoram to be receiving the award.

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On being approached by Sportstar, Jeje conveyed his “shock” at being ignored for the third successive occasion.

“I am very happy for my national team colleagues Gurpreet and Sandesh for receiving the Arjuna Award but am shocked at the same time for being disregarded despite having better credentials on each occasion,” Jeje said.

“I seriously expected the Award to come to me this year as I felt I was the strongest candidate. If you look at my records, there is no one near me among the nominated candidates. I am sad for the rejection but I will take that as a motivation to do even better when I return to the field now,” Jeje who was named the AIFF player of the year in 2016, said.

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The doughty striker is eager to return the field after missing the 2019-2020 season because of knee surgery.

“I have started practising and my fitness is also looking good. I am looking ahead to the new season and will be announcing my new ISL address pretty soon,” Jeje who recently quit Chennaiyin FC after being with it for six seasons, said. It is understood that four franchises have shown interest in him and it is likely that he will return to Kolkata, where he spent a sizeable period of his professional career.

THE MIZORAM FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION LETTER

 

Mr Kiren Rijiju,

Honourable Minister,

Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports

 

Subject: Inquiry regarding disregard of Jeje Lalpekhlua for the Arjuna Award

 

Dear Sir,

Greetings on behalf of the Mizoram Football Association (MFA).

Firstly, the Mizoram Football Association offers sincere congratulations to all the athletes recently honoured on National Sports Day. However, it is with respect that we would like to inquire the case of Jeje Lalpekhlua, who has been nominated for the Arjuna Award on three separate occasions only to be overlooked in each of the past instances. We would be very much obliged if you can further provide us the detailed criteria for the Arjuna Award recipients.

Jeje Lalpekhlua has been named among the nominees for the Arjuna Award by the All India Football Federation on three separate occasions in the past.

In 2017, he, along with Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Bembem Devi were nominated and the award went to Indian women great Bembem Devi.

In 2019 he was nominated along with Gurpreet Singh Sandhu again, in which the albeit commendable but lesser capped Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was given the award.

In 2020, Jeje was again nominated along with Sandesh Jhingan and Bala Devi, and as was the case in the previous year he was again overlooked for the lesser capped Sandhesh Jinghan.

While the MFA acknowledges and applauds the Indian footballer awardees; it insists upon the disclosure of the detailed criteria for the Arjuna Award, as well as the explanation to the question 'Why has Jeje Lalpekhlua been been overlooked after three separate nominations?'

Jeje has earned 56 caps for India, scoring 23 goals, second only to Sunil Chhetri in the national scoring charts among active players. He is currently ranked 6th on the all time scorers list. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Sandesh Jhingan, who both have earned worthy acclamation through their storied careers, have both earned 38 and 36 caps respectively.

With regards to personal accolades, Jeje has also outweighed them considerably, with such awards as:

FPAI Best Young Player Award: 2010–11

I-League Top Indian Goalscorer: 2010-11

AIFF Emerging Player of the Year: 2013

Indian Super League Top Indian Goalscorer: 2014

Indian Super League Emerging Player of the League: 2015

Top Indian Goalscorer in SAFF Championship 2015 (Tied with Sunil Chhetri)

Federation Cup Top Goalscorer: 2015–16

Federation Cup Best Player: 2015–16

FPAI Indian Player of the Year: 2015–16

AIFF Player of the Year: 2016

With regards to club and country, Jeje ranks among the most decorated Indian footballers having lifted the following :

I-League: 2014-15

Federation Cup: 2015-16

Indian Super League: 2015, 2017-18

SAFF Championship: 2009, 2011, 2015

Inter Continental Cup: 2018

Such has been the achievements of Jeje Lalpekhlua in his career, and the MFA strongly believes his endeavours for the nation more than merits the Arjuna Award, that he has been nominated three separate times only to be overlooked on each occasion is a question the MFA humbly demands an answer to. The MFA respectfully requests clarity regarding the situation, the detailed criteria for the Arjuna Award, as well as the reason for the overlooking of Jeje Lalpekhlua for the Arjuna Award.

 

Yours sincerely for the development of sport,

LALNGHINGLOVA HMAR

Honorary Secretary

Mizoram Football Association

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