Ecuador striker Christian “Chucho” Benitez, a new recruit to Qatari football club El Jaish, died this morning at Ahli Hospital in Doha, his team has confirmed.
The circumstances surrounding the 27-year-old’s death are still unclear, but appear to be health-related.
UPDATE | 6:50pm
In a statement on its website, the Ecuador Football Federation has said that Benitez was rushed to the hospital with acute stomach pain before dying of cardiac arrest.
It extended condolences to Benitez’s family, including his wife and children.
On Twitter, Al Jazeera sports reporter Joanna Gasiorowska said he died at the hospital after going in for a check-up. She added:
update from Al Jaish on #Benitez – they’re describing the cause of death as “respiratory arrest” – press conf. at 9.30pm Doha— Joanna Gasiorowska (@JoGasiorowska)
Benitez, a former Birmingham City striker, had just participated in his first football match in Qatar last night, playing against Qatar Sports Club in the Sheikh Jassim Cup “without complaining of any health problems,” El Jaish said in a statement.
“The club would like to offer its sincere condolences to the family of the player…
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.”
During a press conference late tonight, El Jaish issued a second press statement, reiterating its condolences and saying Benitez’s body will be sent to Ecuador for his funeral.
The statement added that the footballer had passed his medical examinations at Aspetar before signing a three-year, $15.4 million contract with the club earlier this month.
Credit: Photo courtesy of Qatar Football Association
Note: This post has been updated to reflect that Benitez passed away at Ahli Hospital (not Hamad)