The Mumbai City FC midfielder opened up on his journey in the league, national team and his future.
Rowllin Borges has made huge strides in his career in the past couple of years and has established himself as a crucial figure in the first team for both club and country. Last season, he frequently put up a monstrous display in the midfield as his tireless running coupled with assured passing largely helped Mumbai City FC exercise control in the centre of the park.
One of the key individuals behind the defensive midfielder’s massive all-round improvement is Eelco Schattorie. He managed to get the best out of him in their time at NorthEast United and has also compared him to Premier League star Kevin de Bruyne.
In a live chat with host Anant Tyagi on the official Indian Super League Instagram handle, Rowllin Borges spoke about his relationship with the former Kerala Blasters boss and the belief showed in him by the Dutchman.
“My relationship with coach Eelco was quite good. But we didn’t talk too much. I think we had only three 1v1 meetings. He gave me some sort of confidence and I performed the way he wanted me to.”
He went on to add, “I think the credit goes to the coach who gave me that confidence to go up, score, run and do what I want, just enjoy and give my best. That confidence helped me to get those numbers (goal-scoring contributions in the 2018-19 season).”
Borges grew up idolising the likes of Ronaldinho and Zinedine Zidane from Europe and Climax Lawrence in India. Rowllin’s father vehemently supported him and took him to football matches held at the Fatorda Stadium. The Goan lad is a product of the Sporting Goa academy and signed his first professional contract with the club.
The 28-year-old couldn’t participate in the first two seasons of ISL as he wasn’t signed by any franchise. He described it as ‘frustrating’ but had the belief that he would eventually make it and he was vindicated in his faith when NorthEast United secured his services ahead of the 2016 campaign. Borges understandably had a few nerves ahead of his debut season but the club members helped him settle seamlessly in his new surroundings.
He recalled, “I was under a lot of pressure because it was the first time I played outside Goa. I was nervous but my teammates, management, and the coaching staff helped me and I had a pretty good season. That season didn’t end like we wanted but as a team we did pretty well, fought till the end and I think we were knocked out in the last game against Kerala which was a must-win for us.”
Nevertheless, he enjoyed a stellar third season with the Highlanders as they secured a spot in the semis for the first time in their history. The India international played a prominent role in that run as he bagged four goals and two assists from 19 matches. On the back of this incredible campaign, Borges decided that he wanted a fresh challenge and hence decided to move to Mumbai City FC bringing an end to his three-year stay in Guwahati.
“It was my decision. I wanted a new challenge and the way Mumbai were playing under coach Jorge Costa was very physical. I wanted to test my physical side. Before signing, they told me that the coach is going to stay. I wanted to test myself and see if I am really that strong physically and whether I am good defensively. So that is the reason I signed for Mumbai.”
Upon his arrival, Rowllin Borges had the opportunity to share the dressing room with midfield ace Paulo Machado. He spoke about the Portuguese maestro’s cheerful demeanour off the field and equally committed displays on the pitch.
“Machado is fun to be around, but on the field, he is fully concentrated, fully motivated and always tries to give his best. He always tries to push the players, likes to fight on the ground, run and he gives his best for the team. That is what I like the most about him.”
Mumbai narrowly missed out on a playoffs spot last season as they suffered a knock-out blow at the hands of Chennaiyin FC in their last game of the league stage. Borges thinks that injuries to key players ended up hurting their chances of qualifying for the semis.
“He (Jorge Costa) said that he is proud of us and that we gave our best, fought hard and fought till the end and that is more important. At the end, winning always matters but it was hard luck for us that we couldn’t qualify. We were missing one or two of our key players like Machado who was injured,” Rowllin stated.
Last year, the City Football Group (CFG) completed the takeover of Mumbai City FC as they attained a majority stake of 65% in the franchise. Borges shared his views on the takeover and the impact it could have on the club. “As we all know, City Football Group is the best at what they do and the group coming into a city like Mumbai shows its potential. It will be a good learning experience and in a few years it will be a club that everyone will want to join.”
Moving on, Rowllin Borges made his debut for the national side in 2015 and he regards receiving his call-up as a ‘turning point’ in his footballing career. The defensive midfielder spoke about his experience of entering the Indian dressing room for the very first time.
“When I first went into the dressing room, Cavin Lobo and Francis Fernandes were there. So I knew both Cavin and Francis bhai. They helped me when I went for the first time into the dressing room as I was so nervous because to share the same dressing room with Sunil (Chhetri) bhai, Jeje (Lalpekhlua) was an amazing feeling.”
Rowllin also shares a healthy relationship with current Indian head coach Igor Stimac. The Croatian had checked up on his midfield general when he had picked up an injury last season. He wished him well and asked him to focus on his recovery.
The gaffer is very fortunate to possess two well-rounded midfielders in Anirudh Thapa and Borges. And Rowllin Borges heaped praise on his compatriot and believes that Thapa can reach even greater heights in the coming years.
He remarked, “My partnership with Thapa has been good. He is very very talented. I think he is one of my favourite players in the ISL. He is a pure talent but also works hard. I wish him all the best. In a few years, he will be one of the best, if not the best. He is one of the best right now too but will grow higher.”
Lastly, he thanked the West Coast Brigade for their relentless support through thick and thin. He recognises that the team couldn’t always get the desired results but the fans never wavered in their support before adding that he is certain that the club will soon achieve success.
“They are amazing. I think they are the best fans for me. I was overwhelmed by the love they showed towards me. ‘The way you guys have supported us has been amazing. Just keep on supporting us and I hope and I am sure that good times will come. Thank you for the love and support you have shown for the club in these past years,” Rowllin Borges concluded with the message.