The Hero I-League has turned into a breeding ground for budding football players over the years. Gaurav Bora, who came to the fore, on Wednesday, said playing alongside Spaniard Roberto Eslava gave him confidence.
The 20-year-old played a crucial role in the I-League-winning Chennai City defence alongside Eslava.
"I can honestly say that I have learnt a lot playing alongside Eslava this season. He always guided me with his leadership qualities and gave me a lot of confidence. His game sense is unparalleled. When to press, when to tackle, how, when, and where to play the long, and the short passes - these are all things that I have learnt from him," Bora said.Having started playing football in school, Bora went on to join the Bhaichung Bhutia Football School, along with current Indian Arrows defender Ashish Rai.
The duo went on to be hand-picked by the then Pune FC Academy Head Coach Naushad Musa, before joining Chennai City on a two-year loan in the last campaign.However, it was in this season that Bora climbed the stairway as he forged a formidable defensive partnership with Eslava. The duo not only worked together successfully to thwart the opposition attacks, but also managed to act as a launch pad for the attack that netted 54 goals in 23 matches this season."That victory (2-1 against Bengaluru FC) gave us a lot of belief. If we could beat a team like the BFC, then we could very well take on just about any other team in the country. There were hiccups along the way. We lost three matches in the league, but we made sure to work on the aspects that led to those respective losses, so we always came back fighting," he said.The Hero I-League came to another exhilarating finish this season, with both Chennai City and Quess East Bengal being in the title race. However, Chennai City dealt with massive blow just minutes before the match even kicked-off.
Eslava had to pull out of the match due to an injury and was replaced by Tarif at the heart of the defence. Things may not have started well for Chennai, but it got even worse for them when Roland Bilala put Minerva ahead."It was obviously a big setback, but we had no time to dwell on that. Eslava told us before kick-off that we all have to play together, and not just depend on (Pedro) Manzi, or Sandro (Rodriguez) to get us the win," he said.While Manzi pulled one back from the spot to level the scores, Bora was not done playing his part in Chennai's victory. With the scores level, and with a little over 20 minutes left on the clock, the centre-back nodded in a corner, his first goal of the season, to put their championship dreams back on track. Bora repeated the manoeuvre in injury time to put all doubts past them and secure the title."I did not really comprehend what I had done, at that moment. We knew that we had to score, so I went up and did that. It was only after the full-time whistle that I realised how important and how historic this match was for the club, and for Tamil Nadu football."These goals, along with his performance throughout the season earned Bora the Hero I-League Emerging Player of the Season award.
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