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Chico Borja

Sport: Soccer

Born: August 24, 1959

Town: Belleville

Hernan Borja was born August 24, 1959 in Quito, Ecuador and moved to Belleville with his family in 1972. Hernan went by the nickname Chico. Chico was a fine soccer player—all, fast and agile. He had seven brothers and two sisters, enough to field two five-on-five teams. The Borja children spent many a day playing family soccer matches in Branch Brook Park in Newark. Usually, the girls were the goaltenders. The Borja kids were good athletes and students; all 10 ended up going to college. His brother Ramiro played soccer at Rutgers and another borther, Efrain, briefly coached at NJIT.

Chico attended Belleville High School, where he excelled in the classroom and on the soccer field. He was a huge fan of the NASL Cosmos during his teen years.

Chico’s favorite TV show was The Brady Bunch. Inspired by TV dad Mike Brady, he attended the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark with the idea of becoming an architect. But soon he built a reputation as the star of Mal Simon’s NJIT soccer team, which played Division III at the time. Chico was a very physical player, always on the attack, combining exceptional dribbling and shooting skills to make thrilling runs through enemy defenses. He became NJIT’s first All-American as a senior in 1980, when he scored 25 goals in 16 games. He scored a total of 60 in four varsity seasons. He was the only D-III player invited to the 1980 Senior Bowl.

In 1981, Chico was drafted by the Cosmos. Coach Hennes Weisweiler had taken notice of his fine senior season and inserted him right into the lineup, primarily as a forward. Chico scored 7 times in 26 games. He was a starter in 1981, 1982 and 1984 for the Cosmos, scoring 21 times. The Cosmos reached the Soccer Bowl in his first two seasons, losing the 1981 game to the Chicago Sting and winning the NASL championship in 1982, 1–0, over the Seattle Sounders.

Chico spent the 1983 season with Team America, an NASL entry sponsored by the US Soccer Federation. He also played for the US national team through the 1988 season, totaling three international goals and 11 caps. He competed in the 1984 Olympics and was on the 1988 Olympic squad, but did not appear due to injury.

With the demise of the NASL, Chico took his game indoors and became one of the all-time greats. As a midfielder, he was masterful at drawing defenses to him and then setting up teammates for easy goals. He led the MISL in assists in 1988–89 and retired with 338 career assists and more than 600 points in the Major Indoor Soccer League. After retiring from the MISL, Chico led the US 5-on-5 Futsal team to a silver medal at the 1992 World Championships. It was just like being back at Branch Brook Park.

Chico transitioned into his coaching career in 1994 with the Houston Hotshots of the Continental Indoor Soccer League and also coached high-school soccer in Houston and later in Florida, where he became a school administrator. Chico also developed into a superb golfer and has coached that sport, as well.

 

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