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 Alfaro has taken charge, and it means a lot to me as a fan to see their commitment on the pitch during every game.
I believe we can make it out of the group stages this year, and that would be a fantastic achievement considering how tough Group A is. Anything after that would be a bonus. Ecuador can do this by trusting the gameplan that got them to the World Cup in the first place and, most importantly, enjoying the experience at a major tournament.
If, by some miracle, we managed to win the World Cup, it would be truly incredible and have a huge impact on the nation. The only way I’d see fit to celebrate is to go around every city and town in the country and experience every single parade and party.
I wish all the playing and coaching staff good luck in Qatar!