Benin, an esoteric land par excellence, was our second destination. Nestled in the Niger River, the Republic of Benin is a voodoo and very spiritual land. There is no doubt it was the toughest trip we have done up till now, due to its suffocating climate and due to having to cross the whole country by bus in a few days. Just like Ethiopia, the trip was divided into two parts: sports and solidarity. The former French colony warmly welcomed us into this adventure full of emotion, camaraderie and solidarity.
This time, our rivals were Panthères FC Djougou, one of the strongest and most popular teams in the Benin Premiere League, the country’s first division. After having travelled around the whole country, the day after landing on African soil, the match took place on the 8th February. The match was played at the Natitingoum stadium, in the north of the country. A stadium with artificial turf (not very common in the country) with plenty of bleachers that were filled with more than 8000 people, including politicians and country idols. The match had vast media coverage, reported live by local press.
The match was made official by the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and the Catalan Football Federation (FCF) along with the Benin Football Federation.
The 40-degree heat made the match one of the hardest matches we have played up till now. The welcome given to us by the Panthères’ supporters made it worth it. And when we arrived at Natitingou, they organised a welcome parade we will never forget.
The Republic of Benin is a sacred land full of mysteries and energy. A sacred place that livened our spirits.
The Panthères weren’t the only team we had to play against in Benin. There was another more important match to be played. On the way back, we stopped off in the capital, Cotonou, to visit the boarding school, based in one of the city’s poorest neighbourhoods.
This school takes in children aged 9-14 and offers them refuge and schooling. The children live in a house next to the school. Apart from going to class, the boarding school promotes values and helps the children develop themselves as people by playing sport. It was an incredible experience for us to play against the boarding school children, amongst which were many talented young players, who without a doubt, will go far. When the match ended, we gave them school and sports supplies which they were very grateful for and thanked us with traditional regional songs and dances.
Part of the 500 kilos of sports and school supplies that we had brought from Les Franqueses was given to the Panthères FC Djougou reserve team, so that the promising younger generation could continue to train towards making their dreams come true.