India soccer team Face Toughest Test Of All Time Without Influential Striker Sunil Chhetri
The India football team face one of their toughest tests of all time as they meet Iran in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, all without their influential striker Sunil Chhetri.
Chhetri has been talisman for the National Team for the last 5-6 Years but has a groin injury that ruled him out of the squad, a big blow for national coach Stephen Constantine.
Chhetri who is captain of the squad and the country's highest scorer in international football, picked up the injury in the I-League.
"We had to take some bold decisions and we have to travel to Tehran without our influential captain Sunil Chhetri," Constantine said.
"The injury is such that it requires him to take necessary care and that requires him to stay back in India and get treated."
In his place is 24-year-old Jeje Lalpekhlua who has been on the scene for six years and debuted with the senior national team when he was 20.
But blighted with injuries and loss of form, he had lost an important confidence over the years, that is, until he was under the wing of Constantine and his 'hard work beats talent' philosophy.
Since then Jeje has been working hard in the gym, with newly defined muscles and improved fitness, so it is no wonder he was chosen to stand in for Chhetri.
“Jeje is willing to work hard. He is blessed with a good physique. He needed somebody to make him believe that he had the ability. He is a grinder and is an asset,” Constantine believes.
The striker who is a product of the AIFF Youth Development Programme, attributed his form to his coach.
“An injury had robbed me of my confidence. I had to bounce back and for that, I realized that I needed to do extra,” he stated.
“In modern day Football you need to do the extra bit by yourself if you want to excel.
“Stephen Constantine has fine-tuned my movements inside the box. I owe him a lot. He has helped me regaining my confidence. He always stresses that hard work beats talent. I am a firm believer in that,” he smiles.