Former U.S. international Chico Borja dies at the age of 61

Former U.S. international Hernan "Chico" Borja, who starred for the New York Cosmos in the NASL's last years, has died at the age of 61 after an extended battle with cancer.

Borja was born in Ecuador and moved to New Jersey as a teenager. He starred at NJIT, then an NCAA Division III program, before joining the Cosmos in 1981. In three seasons, he had 17 goals and 13 assists for the Cosmos. He spent the 1983 NASL season with Team America.

After the NASL folded, Borja spent 10 seasons indoors, eight with the Wichita Wings, where he was a huge star.

“A terrific player and personality,” former Wings general manager Bill Kentling told the Wichita Story. "I thought by this point he would be governor of New Jersey."

Borja earned 11 caps for the USA in an international career that spanned 1982-88. He started for the USA at the 1984 Olympics, where it drew huge crowds.

He started for the national team in the game that turned the program around -- a 3-0 win over Canada in 1987 to erase a 2-0 deficit from the first leg that put the USA on the road to qualifying for the 1988 Olympics.

In the Canada match, Borja was the only player with ties to the NASL, which folded less than three years earlier. The rest of the players were mostly young college kids from places like UCLA, Virginia, Clemson and Indiana. With an Olympic bid in sight and no place for the young players to play professionally, U.S. Soccer took the bold step of paying its players to keep them together.

In 1992, Borja represented the USA at the 1992 FIFA 5-a-side world championship, where it lost to Brazil in the final.

In a story on his post-playing career, the Houston Chronicle reported that Borja's childhood idol when he was growing up in Quito was Mike Brady of "The Brady Bunch," so he wanted to be an architect when he moved to the United States.

But after retiring as a player, Borja coached the women's team at Rockhurst University in Kansas City and then moved to Texas, where he was a middle-school Spanish teacher, and later Florida, where he coached high school soccer and golf and was an assistant principal.

7 comments about "Former U.S. international Chico Borja dies at the age of 61".
  1. Wooden Ships, January 29, 2021 at 9:50 a.m.

    My condolences to the Borja family. Chico was a terrific and skilled player, but an even better individual. He played along side my teammate Steve Moyers at the 84 Olympics and I think a short spell together with the Cosmos. Where I saw him the most was with the Wichita Wings, one of the most exciting and tight MISL franchises. He was beloved in Wichita and I know many of his former teammates and management and city, knew this day was coming, but it still hurts like hell. 

  2. Lorne Donaldson, January 29, 2021 at 11:31 a.m.

    Chico will be missed! Excellent person and great footballer.
    RIP!

  3. Michael Borislow replied, January 29, 2021 at 12:44 p.m.

    Chico was my instructor years ago for my United Soccer Coaches (then NSCAA) Advanced National Diploma.  I learned just as much from him off the field as I did on.  If there ever was a person who wanted to give back it was surely Chico.  He inspired me well beyond my certificate. My thoughts and prayers to his family.

  4. David Saxe, January 29, 2021 at 12:49 p.m.

    Great to see the rememberance of Chico as an NSCAA Instructor.  After seeing him play many times for the Cosmos, I was pleased as puch to have him as an instructor on a coaching course.  Indeed he was an inspiration, warm and helpful in those years.  He gave back so much to the game over the course of his lifetime.  I'm lucky to have known him.  All the best to his family at this time.

  5. Jim Henderson, January 30, 2021 at 2:46 p.m.

    So sorry to hear of Chico’s passing. He was a joy to work with in my PR role at Team America. Great human being. My condolences to the Borja family. 

  6. Santiago 1314, January 30, 2021 at 9:49 p.m.

    As someone who worked Daily with Chico from Olympic Team to Pro Indoor and Youth Coaching, I saw what his illnesses  did to him... He went from a A Great Person to a Back Stabber... RIP Amigo

  7. Ron Brandsdorfer, January 30, 2021 at 9:53 p.m.

    So sad to hear. We played against each other in high school in New Jersey. Our Irvington High School team was better than his Belleville High School team in 1875, but Chico was absolutely tremendous. I think we won 6-4 or 7-4 ... and he had all 4 goals as a junior. A great high school and college player, and I remember watching him play with the Cosmos. Probably the first guy I played against who "made it." Rest In Peace and condolences to his family.

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