Midfielder Rowllin Borges has established himself as a key member of Jorge Costa’s aim to take Mumbai City FC to the pinnacle of the Indian Super League. The 27-year-old, who was bought from NorthEast United ahead of the ongoing season, loves to let his performance do all the talking, and is succeeding extensively at it.
Football runs through his veins and decided at the age of 13 that he wanted to make his name in the sport. A few trials here and there in the early stages of his life guided him to land a contract with his hometown club, Sporting Clube de Goa in 2011.
For a young talent, it was a dream come true and he knew he had to make the most of this opportunity.
“I had just started my career, and I knew I had to learn a lot, not just in football but in my personal life as well. Since then, I’ve kept on learning new things.”
Five years later, Rowllin Borges had another opportunity knocking at his door. In 2016, NorthEast United FC came calling and the midfielder didn’t have to think twice to switch cities.
“The only thing in my mind while moving to the Indian Super League was that I want to prove myself. I wanted to make sure I belong here and just wanted to work hard. I wanted to play as many games as I could, and I worked hard for it,” he revealed.
While still being a defensive midfielder, majorly tasked for breaking the opposition’s game, Borges’ career was about to take a productive turn. Dutchman Eelco Schattorie arrived at the helm in 2018, and a tactical switch saw Borges being deployed as a box-to-box midfielder rather than asking him to sit deep.
The move worked wonders as Borges, without a goal in the past two seasons, returned the favour with four crucial league goals and two assists which propelled NorthEast United to their first-ever semi-finals of the Indian Super League.
“He gave me the confidence about the shift,” said the midfielder. “He explained how I can help the team by making regular forays forward. And once I got my first goal, there was no looking back.”
Consistent performances in the 2018/19 season turned several heads, and it was Mumbai City FC who landed him on a three-year contract. Borges arrived in Mumbai as one of their marquee signings, thus coming in with high expectations. For him though, the easiest way of dealing with pressure is by enjoying every minute on the field.
“There’s always a pressure of performing once you step on the field.”
“But I work tirelessly towards it. For me, personally, I don’t feel any pressure. I just want to enjoy my game by giving the best I can. If I can score, it’s good, and if I can defend, nothing could be any better. I just try helping my teammates in every aspect of the game,” stated Borges.
Now under the watchful eyes of Jorge Costa, who is a UEFA Champions League winner with FC Porto, Borges explains what differentiates the Portuguese mastermind to Schattorie’s approach.
“Well, it’s a great honour for me to work under a coach who has won so much as a player,” said the Mumbai City FC midfielder.
“The way we play at Mumbai and the way I used to play at NorthEast United is completely different. Under Eelco, we concentrated more towards possession-based football, while under Costa, we also look to hit the opponents via counter attacks.”
Such has been Borges’ influence this season, he helped Mumbai register two back-to-back cleansheets early in the season. A set-back, however, partially hampered his season- he pulled his hamstring during the warm-ups ahead of the Odisha game in October, which eventually led to him missing the World Cup qualifiers.
“Injuries are part and parcel of the game. Sitting on the sidelines is indeed depressing at times, but we work hard and train hard towards achieving fitness. And from then on, I wait for my chance to arrive,” he said.
Mumbai City FC are yet to make a stern impact this season. Seven points in as many games mean they occupy sixth spot in the ISL table. Borges, however, is positive going forward and says his team can still lift the Indian Super League title.
“We can still qualify, we can still win the league. No doubt about it. Nothing is over yet. We’re working exceptionally hard this season and hopefully results will come soon. Let’s see how things go from here-on.”
The Indian football team made a massive change at the helm earlier in the year when Stephan Constantine was replaced by Igor Stimac. Speaking about the alteration, Borges says the players need to be professional in situations like these and perform how the new coach wants to.
“As a professional, you need to play according to the coach and make your own adjustment into the game. You have to play according to what the coach wants, and work towards improving your weaknesses. There’s no turning back from what the coach demands.”
India have had a string of disappointing results of late, but regardless of that, the midfielder is confident about the future and says the signs of improvement have shown.
“I can say we’re improving year by year as you can see. You drew against champions, Qatar. There’s always a scope for improvement and we’re working towards it,” he said before signing off.
Feature image courtesy: Twitter / @RowllinB