Friday 18 November 2016, 08:35

Borja delivers on his promises

It started out as just a dream.

A young Miguel Angel Borja used to act as kit man for his brother Walter. While watching training sessions from the sidelines, he let his mind wander, imagining what it would be like to become a professional footballer. Next came the hard work. Borja would do anything to practice with a ball, even if it meant skipping meals. And it was ultimately a sacrifice worth making. All the hard work, combined with his talent, would see those dreams become a reality, with Borja the hottest striker in Colombian football right now.

Back in his hometown of Tierralta, 454 km from Medellin, Borja’s mother Nicolasa used to work tirelessly to get his clothes ready for school. “At school, I used to wear the PE uniform every day, because it was a sweatshirt so I could play football,” the Atletico Nacional striker, and newly-crowned Copa Libertadores winner, explained to “I didn’t like the other uniform because the shoes weren’t good for kicking a ball, but every day my mum would bring me that uniform.”

Soon it would become clear to Nicolasa that her restless, dreamy son had one true obsession: football. “Many times I would skip food at home because I was playing,” recalled the 23-year-old.

“I’ve loved football ever since I was little,” continued the goalscorer, who has now grown to an imposing six feet (1.83 metres) tall. “I would imagine myself scoring goals in big stadiums, and I always told my parents that I would support them, that I would fix the house and look after them properly.” Now he is making good on his promise.

I would imagine myself scoring goals in big stadiums, and I always told my parents that I would support them, that I would fix the house and look after them properly.

When he was young, Borja received a scholarship to attend a school by the name of Ponygol, where his talent soon caught the eye. At 17, he signed his first professional contract with America de Cali. Then came an intense and trying period, during which he had spells at various clubs in Colombia and abroad (in Italy and Argentina). It would only be on arriving at Santa Fe in 2015 that his career really took off.

“I wasn’t there very long, but during that time we won the Copa Sudamericana,” he recalled enthusiastically. “Afterwards I moved to Cortulua, and in 2016 I broke the record for the most goals scored in the Apertura (19).” It is worth noting that, in breaking the record, he surpassed a mark that had been set by another illustrious Colombian striker, Jackson Martinez.

The forward’s talent and spectacular run of form caught the eye of Reinaldo Rueda, who signed him to Atletico Nacional halfway through 2016. Goals were promised and goals were soon delivered, with Borja scoring twice on his debut in the semi-final of the Copa Libertadores. He would end the tournament as his new club’s top scorer, with five goals in four appearances.

“You are born with a gift and you strive every day to improve, but it is only when you give yourself over to God that things start to turn out for the best,” explained this quiet, peaceful character. “Every time I take to the field, I do it with faith.”

Borja is the only Colombian player in history to have lifted both of the preeminent CONMEBOL trophies. Now he has his sights set on repeating his success in the Copa Sudamericana with Atletico Nacional. Furthermore, there is another challenge on the horizon: the FIFA Club World Cup 2016, to be held in Japan between 8 and 18 December.

Borja’s career has well and truly taken off, and there is no looking back. For this striker who always delivers on his promises, the sky is the limit.