Dear Ecuadorian national team,
I am Martin Benitez, CEO of Ecuador Heroes and football coach who graduated from the Institute of Football in Quito – an affiliate of the Ecuador Football Federation. I was born in Quito but grew up in North Carolina since I was just two years old.
I have been supporting the Ecuadorian national team all my life, and I think that living overseas as an immigrant in the USA has perhaps made my connection with the team even stronger.
Whenever the Ecuador national team plays, I usually watch the team surrounded by family and friends. People from all around Ecuador always rally behind the team, for example many businesses allow the employees to come work wearing a national team jersey on game day. Ecuador has 17 million people living in the country and so many more living abroad – including me – and the fans are so special because when they play you can truly sense the pride and support they have in any part of the world.
My earliest memory as a fan was supporting Ecuador throughout the 2006 World Cup as an eight-year-old at home with my family. That tournament, specifically, opened my eyes to the passion I had for the beautiful game and also what it means to watch your country shine on a world stage. The most memorable moment of my fandom however was attending the first game back from the COVID pandemic in Quito. Ecuador were facing off against Paraguay and, despite playing well, had to wait until the 88th minute to get the breakthrough, with Felix Torres heading home a Pervis Estupinan cross to earn the win. It was magical, and I knew from that moment that the team would qualify for the World Cup.
What I love about the current team is that we seem to have the perfect mix of young talent and veteran leadership in the squad. My favourite players are Moises Caicedo, Piero Hincapie, Gonzalo Plata, Angelo Preciado, Pervis Estupinan, Carlos Gruezo, Jeremy Sarmiento, Angel Mena, Enner Valencia, Michael Estrada, Felix Torres, Alexander Dominguez and Moises Ramirez. Trust me, I know it’s a long list but these leaders have performed spectacularly since Gustavo…