Ecuador striker Christian Benitez died yesterday after suffering a cardiorespiratory arrest, less than a month after signing for Qatari club Al Jaish.
Benitez was admitted to hospital with severe stomach pain hours after making his debut against Qatar Sports Club in the Sheikh Jassem Cup but died shortly afterwards. He was 27.
Benitez joined Al Jaish earlier in July from Club America, after previous spells with El Nacional, Santos Laguna and Birmingham.
An Ecuador Football Federation (FEF) statement read: “The FEF regrets to inform you of the death of Christian Benitez, the striker of Qatar club Al Jaish and the Ecuador national team.
“Benitez, who was with his new club in Qatar, had a severe stomach pain, which was why he was rushed to a hospital, where after a few hours he suffered a cardiorespiratory arrest, which ended his life.
“The Ecuadorian Football Federation extends its heartfelt sympathy to the family – parents, wife, children – and friends of our striker Christian Benitez. May he rest in peace.”
Benitez was a regular for his country and made the Ecuador squad for the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany.
Al Jaish were stunned at the player’s death so soon after his arrival. A statement read: “The club would like to offer its sincere condolences to the family of the player. Benitez had recently joined the club from Club America for three seasons.
“The player participated for the first time with the team during yesterday’s match against Qatar Sports Club in the Sheikh Jassem Cup without complaining of any health problems.
“His sudden departure is a big shock for each member of the technical and administrative staff. He was a player that over the short period he was here was regarded for his high moral character.”
Tributes were quick to arrive with Manchester United winger, and Ecuador team-mate, Antonio Valencia tweeting a picture of the pair together.
Sunderland midfielder Craig Gardner, who played with Benitez at Birmingham, said on the social networking site: “Can’t believe Christian Benitez aka chucho has died. Had the pleasure to play with him he was a top bloke. My thoughts go out to his family.”
A tweet from Club America read: “You left as a champion, you will always be in our hearts. Rest in Peace Christian Benitez.”
A Birmingham statement read: “Chucho’s passing will be marked at St Andrew’s ahead of Saturday’s game with Watford.”