From South Africa to South County: Borman talks World Cup, URI

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KINGSTON, R.I. – July 6, 2010 – Danleigh Borman ’08 understands what it means for his homeland to host the World Cup tournament for the first time.

“This is the biggest sporting event in the world, and it is being hosted in my home country,” said Borman, who is in his third season as a professional player with the New York Red Bulls of Major League Soccer (MLS). “Bringing the world together like this is a chance to showcase the good parts of South Africa, the parts, that are not as well known.”

Borman came to URI in 2004 on an athletic scholarship and earned Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year honors as a freshman. It was a strong start to his collegiate career, even though he was dealing with the pressures that come with being separated from his family for the first time. Unable to return home during his college years because of financial issues, Borman was forced to mature quickly, living in an unknown land halfway around the world from his family. During his junior year, he was surprised when he mother came to Rhode Island to see him play.

“That day really meant a lot to me,” Borman said. “Being so young and on my own, I learned to grow up fast when I came to the University. I missed my family, but I had an opportunity for an education because of soccer. I could talk with my family to let them know I was okay, but that’s not the same as being with them. To be able to have my mom here, and show her some of the places I would talk about, that meant the world.”

Now it is Borman watching his homeland from afar, as he follows the World Cup action. While South Africa is a land rife with poverty and racial tension, Borman hopes the 2010 World Cup can bring with it hope and a fresh perspective on life there. For his part, Borman is doing all that he can to help his native country.

“Because of my position in the MLS, I have an opportunity to help make a difference and shed some light on what is happening in Africa,” Borman said. “I am always happy to give back, but I also felt a sense of responsibility to do what I could to help. The whole world will be watching the World Cup, so that was a chance to help raise awareness.”

In April, Borman joined former MLS player Diego Guttierrez and current D.C. United midfielder Clyde Simms at the Library of Congress, where they presented a petition with more than 20,000 signatures encouraging Congress to aid in the fight against Malaria. He spoke as a representative for United Against Malaria and the Nothing But Nets program which raise money to buy insecticide-treated bed nets to protect people from contracting malaria. This disease is the leading cause of death for children in Africa, where 90 percent of all malaria-related deaths in the world occur.

Though he has made his way in the United States as a professional soccer player, Borman’s thoughts are often with his family back home. Borman has scored three goals in his 51 games (three seasons) with the Red Bulls, and each time he has scored, he has crossed his arms in an X as a tribute to his family and friends in South Africa.

“That is my way of saying, ‘Thank you,’ to my people back home, especially my family,” said Borman, who along with his family was recently featured in the New York Times. “They stuck by me and they allowed me to come to the United States to play soccer. They recognized an opportunity for me, and they supported me.”

It was soccer that brought Borman to the United States in 2004 and gave him the opportunity to earn his college degree. His career at URI helped him earn a spot in the professional ranks with the Red Bulls, one of the top teams in MLS.

While he has been watching this year’s World Cup from afar, Borman hopes one day to represent his country on the field.

“I have to be patient and I need to keep proving that my game is good enough for the international level, but hopefully I can be selected someday. That would be the biggest accomplishment of my career.” Geoff CameronBorman’s former college teammate at URI, Geoff Cameron (’08), was battling for a spot on the Team USA roster until a knee injury in late April ended his season. Cameron, like Borman, is a third-year player in the MLS as an all-star defender for the Houston Dynamo.

“What happened with Geoff is really unfortunate because he was really coming into his own,” Borman said. “He is one of the top players in the MLS and was playing at such a high level. I feel for him.”

Though he hopes to play for South Africa’s national team someday, Borman’s immediate focus is with New York, the top team in the Eastern Conference of the MLS.

“This is a different level of play than the college game,” Borman said. “It is much harder and much more competitive because people are playing for their livelihood. It was not an easy adjustment, but I feel much more comfortable now than in my first season. I know I belong.”

During his college career at URI, Borman led the Rams to an Atlantic 10 Championship and NCAA bid as a junior in 2006. In addition to the conference Rookie of the Year honors as a freshman, he earned second-team All-Atlantic 10 honors as a senior in 2007. Despite all the these accolades, he had to pay his own way to attend a tryout camp held in Florida after his senior season was finished. He impressed enough scouts to be selected in the MLS’ 2008 Supplemental Draft.

As for his time at URI, Borman is clear about what his time in Kingston meant to him.

“My time at the University of Rhode Island was one of the most important stages in my life,” Borman said. “Graduating with a degree was very important to me. A lot of people leave school before they finish, but I will always have this. URI is where I grew into a man. It helped me academically and in terms of my pro career in soccer.”