I was once on the streets, but now my life is great, says Bengaluru FC’s Nili

The arms of Bengaluru FC’s new signing Francisco Jose Perdomo Borges, commonly known as Nili, are covered in tattoos. There is a lion, to denote that he is the king of the football jungle. A practising Christian, Nili has made space for a couple of Buddha portraits. The number 29 signifies his childhood jersey number.

A grand tattoo of Greek god Zeus, however, stands out as the most significant. “Zeus is for my grandfather, because he is the god of all gods,” Nili says.

It is evident that Nili, born and raised in the Spanish city of Las Palmas, owes a great debt to his grandfather, Rafael Perdomo, who saved him from a tumultuous childhood

“My life as a kid was not easy. My father and mother fought all the time. When I was seven, I moved out with my mother. But she had problems with alcohol and drugs. She used to hit me a lot, so I was forced to live on the streets. I didn’t have any money. I would wander around and peer through house windows. If I saw fruits or food inside, I would steal it. Those were desperate times,” Nili recalls.

Just when his young life was spiralling out of control, his grandfather stepped in. “My grandfather is my angel — he is the most important person in my life. When I was 10, he took me in and cared for me,” Nili says.

To give Nili a positive outlet, Rafael got him to enrol in the Union Deportiva Las Palmas football academy. Nili — a versatile footballer who can play on the wings or in midfield — excelled at the sport and earned a spot in the senior Las Palmas reserves side in 2013.

His big break came three years later, when he joined Barcelona at the age of 22. Nili was now playing alongside the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar, Andres Iniesta and Luis Suarez. “It is a luxury to train with guys like Messi. You can learn so much in every single minute of training. Off the field, Neymar is like me — he likes to have fun. Messi is more quiet and serious,” Nili says.

But the dream move did not last long. Nili managed just a solitary appearance — as a substitute in a Copa del Rey match — before signing with lower division side Albacete Balompie.

Nili, who describes himself as simple small-town boy, could not handle the pressure of expectations at Barcelona. “When I was in Las Palmas, I played football because I loved the sport. In Barcelona, you need to win every single game and every single title. If you miss a pass in Las Palmas, the coach would say, ‘No problem. Keep going. You can do better next time’. In Barcelona, it was different. If you cannot maintain a very high standard, then someone else will take your place,” Nili says.

His short stint at Barca wasn’t all bad. Nili takes great pride in telling the story of how Messi made his grandfather a happy man. “My grandfather, for the first time in his life, travelled from Las Palmas in the Canary Islands to the mainland. He came to see me train. After training, I asked Messi if he could take a photo with my grandfather. Messi readily agreed, and even gave my grandfather his jersey as a gift. That meant the world to me,” Nili says.

In 2018, Nili left Spain to play for Greek side Platanias. A chat with an old friend, Odisha FC striker Aridane Santana, convinced him to make the move to BFC. “Aridane and I played together in Albacete; he also lived in the Canary Islands. We are like brothers. He told me that I should join BFC because they are an established Indian club. He felt I could perform well in the Indian Super League,” Nili says.

These are early days in the Nili-BFC alliance, but the player has already experienced a few highs. Earlier this month, Nili got the chance to travel to Thimphu for an AFC Cup preliminary-stage clash against Paro FC. For Nili, Bhutan felt like his spiritual home. “I have two Buddha tattoos. Bhutan has a rich Buddhist history. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to Bhutan. I never thought it would happen. Thailand maybe, but Bhutan… never,” Nili says.

Having overcome the trials and tribulations of the past, Nili is now truly at peace. “I was once out on the streets, but now my life is great. My wife and daughter — they are my main motivation now. Whenever I do something silly, my wife pulls me back on track. You need someone like that in your life to take you in the right direction. My grandfather played that role when I was young. I will do all I can to support my family,” Nili says.

You have reached your limit for free articles this month.

Register to The Hindu for free and get unlimited access for 30 days.

Subscription Benefits Include

Today’s Paper

Find mobile-friendly version of articles from the day’s newspaper in one easy-to-read list.

Unlimited Access

Enjoy reading as many articles as you wish without any limitations.

Personalised recommendations

A select list of articles that match your interests and tastes.

Faster pages

Move smoothly between articles as our pages load instantly.


A one-stop-shop for seeing the latest updates, and managing your preferences.


We brief you on the latest and most important developments, three times a day.

Not convinced? Know why you should pay for news.

*Our Digital Subscription plans do not currently include the e-paper ,crossword, iPhone, iPad mobile applications and print. Our plans enhance your reading experience.

Source link


Juventus players, coach Sarri agree pay cut due to coronavirus

Juventus players and coach Maurizio Sarri have reached an agreement over a wage reduction that will save the Italian champions 90 million euros ($100.26 million), the Serie A club announced on Saturday. Sarri and the first-team players have agreed what amounts to a four-month pay reduction to help Italy’s most successful club during the coronavirus […]