The goat emoji seemingly pops up a lot when supporters talk about Rowllin Borges. Coincidence? I think not.
Tank, Engine, GOAT, King are just some of the adjectives which precede Rowllin. Fans go bonkers over him, they love him. You look at his history and that’s when you realize that he has played just one season in the Mumbai blue. It takes a moment to comprehend the impact one player is having on a team and an entire fan-base in just one season.
Not every player gets to do that.
Rowllin Borges is different. And he deserves it, more than anyone else. Was it this way since the start? Nah. This is a story of exceeding all the odds to make it to the biggest stage, as told by The Tank to IFTWC.
Rowllin loves having the ball at his feet. There were early signs of the same too. In his school, he started as a goalkeeper. Next match onwards he played in the midfield. The reason? “I got just one touch on the ball.” He changed clubs, found a coach who turned him into a midfielder and the rest is history.
Tough times never last, tough people do, and if there is someone who can swear by it, it’s the lad from Margao.
“There were difficult times, but in the whole time I never thought I won’t make it. I believed in myself, I worked for it and eventually the hard work paid off,” Rowllin said.
Perhaps Rowllin’s worst time came during the 2014 and 2015 season of the Indian Super League, when he wasn’t drafted by any of the 8 team. “Yeah of course, when your friends are picked, and you are not, it’s…” He paused, gathering his thoughts. “ I was angry on myself because I wasn’t picked.” he continued.
The story of Rowllin’s international debut is amusing, to say the least. “I played for the National Team and then I got picked in the ISL. Getting into the national team was the turning point in my career. ” His hard work resulted in him being roped in by Northeast United in 2016, the club where he developed himself as one of India’s best midfielders. His last season there, in 2018-19, was unforgettable. “It was a great season, as an individual and also as a club. We qualified for the playoffs for the first time. It was a good season for everyone.”
In the 2018-19 season, it wasn’t just the fans who were following the team with keen interest. While wearing the red of Northeast United, Rowllin had his eyes set on the blues from Mumbai. “The way Mumbai was playing, it was very physical. I wanted to join them, I wanted to improve my game defensively,” he confessed.
A year later he was making his way to the City Of Dreams.
And what a time it has been for him. Rowllin says his game improved a lot defensively under Jorge Costa, and if this improvement made him the best player for the club last season, imagining him under Costa’s successor is almost criminal.
Even though Rowllin was almost 600 kilometres away from me, the gentleness in his voice travelled through. You would think of a guy shy in his own way, always smiling away. His demeanor on the ground makes opponents think otherwise, though.
He’s not one to shy away from a fight or two. Erik Paartalu and Dimas Delgado are first hand witnesses of the same. “I want to win, and for that I am so aggressive on the ground.”
One of the best matches in the whole season was between the Islanders and Bengaluru FC in Kanteerva. For Rowllin it holds special memories, courtesy of his last minute winner. Rowllin was quick to deny the credit for it though. “For that goal all the credit goes to Subhasish. The way he jumped and headed the ball, with two-three defenders around him and I was at the right place, I suppose(laughs).”
“I think my knee touched the ball. The ball deflected slightly and it went for a goal and gave us the three points!” said Rowllin as he suppressed his laugh to frame the sentence.
He even spoke about his favourite movie, which led to a hilarious post-match scene. Along with Raynier Fernandes, Paulo Machado, Bipin Singh and Subhasish Bose, Rowllin was captured doing the ‘Raju’ pose. “I did it in a training session and the boys then did it after the win at Bengaluru(laughs). Also, Hera Pheri is one of my favourite movies. Full timepass!”
Life’s good for Rowllin at Mumbai. In the middle of his three year contract, and already a fan-favourite, Rowllin has only good things to look forward to. “ I’m having a good time over here. Last season was individually good for me, but I hope I can contribute more to the team this season. We will see about the future later, but right now I’m enjoying my time here. I am looking forward to these two years and let’s see what the future holds.”
The feeling is mutual when it comes to the love fans shower on the team and Rowllin Borges. “They’re one of the best fans in India. Last season was not that good for us as we didn’t qualify for the playoffs but the fans still kept supporting us. Hopefully, we can keep them a reason to smile, a reason to keep supporting us more this season.”
The insatiable hunger of improving each season is evident in his words. He keeps on mentioning that he wants to improve even more, overcome his weaknesses and win trophies with Mumbai. His aims for next season epitomises this hunger of self-mastery. “ I want to win everything with Mumbai City. The ISL trophy, the League Shield, Asian competition, everything. But before that, we need to win each and every match and go step by step.”
“ I am looking forward to the match against FC Goa, obviously. They beat us last season by a big margin and that’s why I want to face them. Another team would be the defending champions,” answered Rowllin when asked which matches he’s looking forward to.
When the interview ended, one thing stuck with me. When Rowllin Borges said he wanted to win ‘everything’ with Mumbai City FC, it wasn’t just a mere overstatement. It was the embodiment of the spirit of the fans, the team, the players and the City. It has taken a while for the sun to rise, but hopefully when it will, it’ll be beautiful.
Feature image by Lunchinggou Mate/IFTWC