[Editor’s Note – It’s not too uncommon to hear that Benfica is like a religion, after all we idolize the club, we identify with the club, and have our weekend, (sometimes midweek) rituals in anticipation of watching our team play. Those rituals become even more involved when living outside of Portugal, and not having the luxury to make the trip to Estadio da Luz to watch our team live. The story you are about to read is a story about “Benfiquismo”, camaraderie, special sentiment and of tribute. Perhaps an idea for other Benfiquistas to start their own pre-season rituals, maybe a pre-season meeting of Benfiquistas from twitter, and other social media spread out through North America at the place Mario describes below.]
It started months back when we were talking about how no one will be able to touch the Eusebio statue shortly after his passing or take photos next to it, just like how our family did over the years. Don’t get me wrong, the structure is an amazing tribute to the King but something about getting the feeling of standing next to a legend feels as if it’s been lost. My wife, son, and I have all been able to see the statue in its simple form, however my younger sisters never had a chance to see it. This is where Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA came to mind.
With the help of Victor Baptista (the Benfiquista who donated the original Eusebio statue) Tony Frias requested a replica of the Eusebio statue to be put in Foxborough’s Gillette Stadium, home to the New England Revolution (MLS)/Patriots (NFL). There is a great back story here that I recommend all Benfiquistas look into. While we love the amazing images of what has been done to the Eusebio statue in Lisboa, we wanted to see that original one more time and Foxborough, USA was the answer. So the planning started.
We wrapped up most of the details after Benfica won the SuperTaca. We left by car from southern Ontario on a 4 hour trip to Ottawa to meet with family (also Benfiquistas) before we drove a couple hours the next day to Montreal where we met up with a couple of outstanding Benfiquistas you may know on twitter; Kevin Carvalho @Nivekslb & Robert Santos @irobertsantos at the local Casa do Benfica. Over a few beers we got to enjoy the first match day 1 win in 10 years. The next day we were off to Boston where we stayed before heading off to Foxborough.
As we approached the stadium the excitement grew. However, there was a fear that the statue would be in some dirty corner behind a building as the connection between Eusebio and Foxborough is not well known. It didn’t take long for that fear to pass, from a distance you can start to see the King on top of the hill by the main entrance.
I asked the first American security guard I walked by the best way to check out the statue and he wasted no time in saying “you must be a Benfiquista”. Even though he wasn’t a European football fan, he quickly pointed out how he considered Benfica to be his team due to the connection with his home town stadium. To see the statue at the main entrance of the stadium gave me fond memories of the original back home. In an open garden, I was thrilled to see how well kept and placed the statue was giving the King the proper respect so far away from his home. While the 2,600km trip included some personal time, it was the Benfica connection throughout the whole trip that made it special. After enjoying our second liga win over Boavista I decided to share this story. To me this has truly been a different and great way to start the season in my book.