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Ana Borges: Portugal's unlikely record breaker

Now her nation's most-capped female player, Ana Borges has come a long way since taking up the game in her remote childhood village.

Ana Borges
Ana Borges UEFA

Ana Borges made a record 146th appearance for Portugal against the Netherlands last week, breaking Carla Couto's longstanding record.

Thirty-two-year-old Borges made her international debut back as a teenager in 2009 at a time when Portugal were still awaiting a major finals appearance. They broke that duck by reaching UEFA Women's EURO 2022, and five years later are experiencing a second opportunity in England.

"It is a great source of pride to play for Portugal for me or any other player," says the 32-year-old. "We know that we are privileged because this is our second time in the final phase of UEFA Women’s EURO.

"For any player, to make it to the national team has to be the biggest dream, and so we also represent the other players who couldn’t make it here because 23 is a very small group."

That only serves to emphasise the scale of Borges' achievement in playing so many Portugal games - to have surpassed the total of one of Portuguese women's football's trailblazers in Couto emphasises the winger's quality and longevity, but it could easily never have happened.

Borges during her record-breaking appearance against the Netherlands
Borges during her record-breaking appearance against the NetherlandsGetty Images

Looking back, she acknowledges she has come a long way from her childhood in Gouveia, a village located in Portugal's interior.

"I always remember where I came from – I am a humble person," she says. "I started playing football on dirt and now I’ve played at Wembley, but I am the same girl who started playing football in the village with my friends and siblings. I will never forget my origins.

"I’ve always said to myself: I’m happy; that I’ve my family who has always motivated me never to give up. I didn’t know that one day I would end up as a footballer."

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Her early days in the game offered little indication that she would one day represent her country or play in a tournament with record attendance figures and huge TV viewership.

 Borges talks to England's Karen Carney, then a Chelsea team-mate, at Women's EURO 2017
Borges talks to England's Karen Carney, then a Chelsea team-mate, at Women's EURO 2017SPORTSFILE

"When I started playing, there were not that many women’s teams. I am from a small village, and there were only four teams in the region, so it was even more difficult," Borges recalls. "There was not that much information or support with regards to women’s football, we had to go and find the clubs ourselves.

"My family supported me and never put limitations on me. They always said to me: 'Go! Fight for it! Go for your objectives and work for your dreams. If one day you don’t want to or you don’t make it, it’s because it wasn’t meant to be. Don’t give up on what you want to be.'

"Then, my first club, I can never forget them," the winger continues. "They picked me up from home and dropped me off, they put a lot of effort in which enabled me to play football. If that had not been an option, then maybe I would not be here, or maybe it would have taken me longer.

"If someone was here from that club, the first thing that I would do would be to show my gratitude. It’s impossible to be thankful enough for all the things that they did for me."

Borges' is an unlikely path from the grassroots to the game's summit, but her story stands as inspiration for any young girl wishing to follow in her footsteps. With more investment in grassroots and women's football than ever before, and a commitment from UEFA to provide playing opportunities for any women and girls who want them, the next generation can dare to dream.

Growing the game in Portugal