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Benitez – I Try To Overcome Obstacles Every Day

Ecuador’s Christian Benitez was one of the best youngsters at the 2006 FIFA World Cup™. The 22-year-old striker reflects on the current crisis in the national team and on his dreams, idols and famous father.

FM magazine: Ecuador only have three points from their first four matches in the preliminary competition for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ in South Africa and are currently languishing in eighth place. Luis Fernando Suarez also resigned as coach in November. Why?
Christian Benitez: He thought the results were down to him, that it was his fault, but it wasn’t. Apart from being a good coach, Suarez is a wonderful person who wanted the best for all of us. 1 don’t agree with what he did, but it was his decision and I have to respect it.

Why aren’t these qualifiers going as well as the qualifiers for the 2006 FIFA World Cup™?
Benitez: We never believed that we would lose at home to a team like Venezuela, we all thought we would win but things didn’t go our way. It was the same against Brazil. We played better against Peru though and I think we’re on the right track now.

Can Ecuador qualify for the FIFA World Cup™ again?
Benitez: Yes. Nobody was happy with how we started, it took everyone by surprise, but we have improved and we did OK in our last game. 1 believe that we will reach the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. We have a good group of players and I know that we can do it.

There have been many rumours about divisions within the squad. Is there any truth in it?
Benitez: When a team plays poorly, people always think that there are divisions in the squad, that certain players don’t get on with the others, but most of us know each other, we have been together and even played for the same teams, so no, it’s not like that at all. There are people who say such things but it’s not true. They wonder why we are getting poor results and then try to say that this is the reason.

Which South American teams will qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ in South Africa?
Benitez: Brazil, Argentina … 1 think Paraguay and Ecuador too … and then there is Colombia and Uruguay.

Why are still waiting for your first goal for Ecuador when you score regularly for your Mexican club, Santos Laguna?
Benitez: I don’t know, but if I am relaxed it will come. I just have to continue to work hard. ‘Things have gone well for me in Mexico and I just have to continue to do what I am doing and everything will be OK in the end. 1 have to wait for the decisive moment to help us to get where we want to be.

Which players do you admire in your position?
Benitez: Romario, and from Mexico, Omar Bravo, the centre-forward who plays for Chivas. I like how he plays, I am similar to him, he has something about him that I like. Romario was a great player, and it was from him in particular that I tried to learn.

What was it like to play for Nacional, your boyhood club in Quito?
Benitez: I joined them when I was nine. I progressed through all of their youth teams, grew up there, matured there and did well when I made the step up. The club helped me in many ways and it is something I carry within me [gestures towards his heart].

Did you always play in the same position when you were growing up?
Benitez: No, I played on the left wing, on the right, as a striker, as an attacking midfielder, I moved around. It was good for me to learn how to play in all of those positions, but now I play up front alongside the main striker. I’ve forgotten about the other positions now [laughs].

What dreams do you have in football?
Benitez: To keep developing, to join a huge club one day and to improve day by day. I try to play nice football, overcome obstacles every day and enjoy myself when I play.

What do you remember about your senior debut?
Benitez: It was in Quito, Hernan Dario Gomez was the coach, some of his players had left to play in the Copa Libertadores and I was in the U-17 team. I was called up, played in the second half and even scored a goal against Deportivo Quevedo. As for the national team, it was against Venezuela in a friendly in Loja.

And what do you remember about the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ in Germany?
Benitez: It was an adventure and it was great to play in a World Cup. Everyone gets very excited, because they live for football. It was fantastic and you try to do the best you can. It was a wonderful experience and we did very well.

Who were your idols? Italo Estupinan, perhaps? Or maybe Alex Aguinaga and other players from that era?
Benitez: Yes, more so from the era of Alex Aguinaga, Ivan Hurtado and Agustin Delgado. I admired them all and even had the honour of playing with them. It was great to see my dream of playing with them come true and I am very happy. Definitely!

Your father, Ermen Benitez, is the leading marksman in the history of Ecuadorian football with 191 goals and three top goalscorer awards.
Benitez: He is a legend in Ecuadorian football, the best goalscorer our country ever produced and I think there is a little bit of him in me. Everything he ever told me is happening now. He worked twice as hard in training because it’s good for you. He taught me everything I know so that I wouldn’t make any mistakes.