The Mizoram Football Association (MFA) has sought a clarification from the Centre on why Indian national team striker Jeje Lalpekhlua was ignored for the Arjuna Award despite being nominated on three occasions since 2017.
In a letter addressed to Union sports minister Kiren Rijiju, the MFA asked the Union minister to provide detailed criteria for Arjuna Award after Jeje Lalpekhlua, who despite her remarkable achievements, has been dropped again this time for the third time.
The letter signed by MFA honorary secretary Lalnghinglova Hmar aka Tetea Hmar said Jeje Lalpekhlua was named among the nominees for the Arjuna Award by the All India Football Federation on three occasions but on each occasion, the Arjuna Award Committee went for “lesser capped players” and overlooked the Indian striker.
In 2017, Jeje was nominated for the award along with Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Bembem Devi and the award went to Bembem Devi.
The Indian striker from Mizoram lost to lesser capped Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Sandhesh Jinghan in 2019 and 2020, respectively, the letter said.
“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?” the letter said.
It said Jeje has earned 56 caps for the Indian national team, scoring 23 goals and he is 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,” the letter said.
Jeje’s personnel achievements include 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), ISL 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) and AIFF Player of the Year (2016).
Among the honours, he has earned for his club and country are I-League title (2014-15), Federation Cup title (2015-16), ISL (2015, 2017-18), SAFF Championships (2009, 2011, 2015) and Intercontinental Cup (2018).
Hmar said the MFA is very disappointed with the decision and said that Jeje has far deserved the award than his two friends Sandhu and Jhingan.
Meanwhile, Jeje said he was shocked at being rejected by the committee for the third time.
He said he was expecting the award this year as he has better credentials and records than the other two nominees.