Discipline, breaking barriers the hallmark of Vurlon Mills
By Akeem Greene
The career of Vurlon Robert Mills amounts to 30 matches, eight goals and eight years of dedicated service to the national football programme.
Mills announced his exit from international football in April and though the efficient and attacking midfielder felt he could have donned the Golden Jaguars’ jersey longer, a deep passion for moulding youths into rounded players has taken priority.
Now 32, his story of talent unfulfilled, injuries and lack of opportunities all started from an interest in the ‘Beautiful Game’ at the age of eight in the community of North Ruimveldt.
North Ruimveldt is located in South Georgetown, and some quarters have become stained by the wrongdoings of unsavoury characters.
Fortunately for Mills, he had only one option- a strong elementary groundings in the church. Born February 18 to Jerry and Sharon Mills, Vurlon is the third of seven children, who had a routine of home, school and church.
According to him, that rigidity brought stability, influenced his strong discipline, and kept him away from being a “bad image” of the community.
Argentine start forward Leonel Messi once said, “If football has thought me anything, it is that you can overcome anything, if and only, you love something enough.”
Mills’ love for the sport kept him going; even though the body paid for the rigours with injuries, he kept going hard.
Blessed with great potential, he made the National Under-17 team in 2004 and seven years later after moving through the various youth levels, he played 90 minutes for the senior Golden Jaguars against Barbados.
Three games later, he scored the opening goal of the clash against India at the National Stadium, Providence. Fast forward to 2020 and the passion to score is still there, but in a different game, one that has the future as its central focus.
“If I am going to play, I want to give my full 100%, whether it is a club or national level, I want to be able to give my full 100 and if I can’t then I wouldn’t feel that I am contributing to the whole programme,” Mills related to News Room Sport.
On two occasions he scored a brace (two goals in a match) and it is the second outing which is the most memorable.
October 25, 2012, Guyana needed to win by a three-goal margin against host St. Lucia in order to top the group and qualify for the second round of the Caribbean Cup Qualifiers.
Mills scored in the 14th and 34th, while Gregory Richardson made it the perfect night with a goal in the 37th as Guyana claimed the 3-0 win.
Guyana eventually crashed out in the second round, having won just one of their three matches, but Mills had four goals in five matches.
“It was a joy for me being part of the senior’s Men’s team under Jamal Shabazz. It was exciting since at that time some of the best players playing at that time and I was happy to be part of that group. I think I could have done more during my playing career, but I am satisfied for what I have given to Guyana as a player,” said Mills, who idolised French star Zinedine Zidane.
At that time, he rubbed shoulders with the likes of established players Nigel ‘Powers’ Codrington, Charles ‘Lilly’ Pollard, Howard Lowe and Walter Moore.
In 2012, he got the nickname ‘GQ’ from Julien Edwards, who felt Mills was “smooth on the ball.”
However, the likes of Kayode McKinnon, Dwain Jacobs, Dwight Peters, Matthew Briggs, Emery Welshman, Neil Danns, Trayon Bobb, Quincy Adams among others are players whom Mills felt showcased great discipline on and off the field and encouraged him with their direct attitude.
Gold Cup snub
Mills had scored a brace against Bermuda during the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, where Guyana exited in the third round, just before the Hexagonal round where the three automatic qualifiers are decided.
World Cup qualification was practically more fanciful than realistic for a nation with little investment in the sport, but Gold Cup Qualification was something more possible and it was achieved in 2019 when Guyana defeated Belize 2-1 at Leonora.
It was a bittersweet moment for Mills since he had a limited part in the emotional journey. He played 31 minutes against Barbados in the first qualifier, was benched against Turks and Caicos then dropped from the squad; a timeline of events which brought immense pain.
“It was something I never said on open air; if we were to talk to the coach face to face and even talk to players who were involved and even managers, and whoever was involved in that selection process, I think it was more politics that played in my [non] selection given the fact that when we went to Brazil on the two weeks tryout, I was the most dominant player and I am not exaggerating because I am talking to you.”
“Anybody can attest to that. I was the fittest player, I was the most technical player…and I felt hurt I was not a part of that team indeed.”
The training stint in question was the “Train and Play” in Brazil programme, which was led by then Head coach Michael Johnson.
Mills’ professional career saw him play for Western Tigers, Fruta Conquerors, Georgetown Football Club, Slingerz FC and Trinidadian teams San Juan Jabloteh, FC Santa Rosa, T&TEC SC, W Connections, Caledonia and United Petrotrin.
The zenith was to play in Europe but injuries, such as a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in 2008 and a torn cartilage in 2012 among others, curtailed such illustrious endeavours.
Commenting on what has always been a contentious issue by stakeholders in local football- the presence of overseas-based players- Mills posited he personally did not have an issue since they are needed to help build a structure.
He still felt there is local talent but the difference is, overseas players are exposed to more consistent football while there is usually long “downtime” in local leagues.
“What used to happen is that sometimes [foreign-based] players come in and they don’t play for any club, they are not assigned to any club and that is my problem. If they are not assigned to a club, then why not give a local player a chance who is active and that something (current) coach (Márcio) Máximo fixed when he came.”
The Brazilian was appointed to the job in 2019 after Johnson resigned and quickly limited the amount of foreign-based players in the programme, something which Mills felt gives more opportunities for locals to develop.
A penchant for the extraordinary, Mills wants his next run of 90 minutes to be on the sidelines, helping to mould the next star of Guyana’s football.