“In these days of uncertainty because of the pandemic situation, it’s good to have this kind of chat,” says Hernâni Borges.
The hour-long conversation that followed was conducted via video call, both speakers backlit by the glow of their computer screens. In an era characterised by unfamiliarity, adapting to new realities is the order of the day.
Even before the outbreak of COVID-19, Hernâni was grappling with the beast that is adjusting to a new way of life. A professional footballer for almost two decades, the 38-year-old has begun a new adventure as a coach – albeit one which has been temporarily suspended by the virus.
He was talking with scout and friend of Soccer Hub, Nuno Milheiro. Brought together by football, the pair have known each other for the majority of their professional lives. There was palpable warmth between the two men who are both passionate advocates of one of Soccer Hub’s fundamental philosophies: the sharing of knowledge.
“These days we see so many interviews where you don’t learn anything,” Nuno Laments. A progressive within the beautiful game, he believes collective growth within the sport is one of its greatest virtues: “conversations with people to bring things to football, they have my admiration.”
Hernâni feels the same. “I could give you a list of players that are playing in the Champions League – I tried to motivate them every day so that they don’t give up. And from that moment, I understood that maybe I have something more to give to football,” he remarks.
“A coach must be a man; he must be a father sometimes, must be a friend, not worried with the results, worried about making his players better.”
“I will not leave the way of thinking that, for me to be a good coach, the players that start with me must leave much better than they started,” says Hernani, hungry to succeed and adapt to his new reality.
If Nuno’s glowing assessment of the journeyman centre-forward is anything to go off, his acclimation will be no trouble: “it’s people like you that, no matter what level they are, they bring something to football.” Nuno should know; he is a football obsessive with a wealth of scouting knowledge. Asked what the first thing a scout looks for in a player, his response is fascinating: “there is not one thing we look for first. It depends on the context. Let’s say we are scouts for a club. We first need to see the reality of the club: if we can get the player, if we cannot get the player. We need to see the philosophy of the club.”
“We need to provide to the manager/coach the ingredients to a good dish. We need to look for the players who are better for the system, for many things,” he continues, “even the way he does the warm-up, the way he plays when he is losing, the way he plays when he is winning.”
Nuno goes on to reveal that “there are some aspects in a player that are harder to train. For example, speed is hard to work but acceleration is easier.” Both attributes were possessed by his friend Hernâni in abundance. But towards the end of his career, the former Cape Verde international realised that the difference between a great player and an average one is from the neck up. “When you’re young, you think you know everything. Sometimes it’s very difficult to accept others’ opinion” he says, but “in football, intelligent players make the difference.”
“He [the intelligent player] can adapt to new realities,” he goes on to say. One player who has consistently proved himself capable of doing exactly that is Nuno and Hernâni’s compatriot, Cristiano Ronaldo. “To adapt to England was probably the biggest challenge because he didn’t know the language, it was a completely different place. The mentalities are different, the food is different, the training methods are different – he proved he can adapt,” he said before adding, with a glint in his eye, “about Messi, we don’t know yet.” A hint of Portuguese bias, perhaps, but also proof of Hernani’s commitment to .and reverence of adaptability.
In dark times, Nuno’s closing sentiments are uplifting: “there is still a space for us to be happy, and to do the things we like.” Keep on learning, and keep on sharing.
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