The Mohun Bagan and Indian National team striker has been in fiery form of late and is taking some time away from the game. . .

The thrill and rush of a knockout punch, a tough point won or a match-winning six is unmatched. Footballers are no different. They live to be on the field, to win and to prove their mettle. But what about the off-season?

In this age of high-intensity sports, the mind and body do need rest, but the long period of inactivity can be cumbersome. Jeje Lalpekhlua, therefore, has a solution to this – Badminton, as he finds the shuttlecock and the racket the perfect recipe to unwind and to rejuvenate himself for the forthcoming season.

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“I grew up watching badminton and I just love to play it. I’m lucky that I have the opportunity to represent my country in football otherwise I would have a badminton player for sure,” Jeje, the heartthrob of millions quips.

“During the off-season, there is no football. But I do have to maintain my fitness. Hitting the gym is fine but badminton makes it more fun. Plus, I can hang out with my friends at the same time,” he informs. “The sport requires quick reflexes and perfect hand-eye coordination including your feet. You also have to good with your footwork. So your whole body is involved.”

In the quaint small hamlet of Hnahthial, the roads stay narrow, the valleys too steep. Public buses and jeeps are the only means of transport in this town of 8000. The people from the hills are traditionally known to be fit but an athlete’s fitness levels are even higher.

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“I have always been a huge fan of Lee Chong Wei. As a teenager I idolised him. His dominance is just so exciting,” you sense the idol speaking about his idol. “You know what, I’m the Lee Chong Wei of my gang,” he changes gears. 

‘So do you smash as hard as your idol?’

“I try to. Have you seen his leap? He is so amazing,” Jeje murmurs.

Some moments later, you stumble across a viral video of one of Jeje’s goal in the Hero I-League wherein his magical first touch to trap the ball from over his shoulder flummoxes all – the perfect example of the hand-eye coordination albeit with a foot which Jeje was speaking about.