Former Birmingham striker Christian Benitez has died at the age of 27. The Ecuador international was admitted to hospital with severe stomach pains shortly after making his debut for Qatari side El Jaish on Sunday. His heart failed hours later the Ecuador Football Federation said. Benitez capped 58 times by his country spent the 2009-10 season on loan at Blues from Santos Laguna but returned to the Mexican side when they decided not to sign him permanently. Benitez also known as 'Chucho' had been playing in El Jaish's 2-0 win against Qatar Sports Club in the Sheikh Jassem Cup. His new club who signed Benitez on 6 July confirmed the news a few hours later. Their statement said: "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." The president of the Ecuadorian Football Federation paid an emotional tribute. "This morning we woke feeling profound pain a pain that all Ecuadorians share after losing an extraordinary human being a son friend husband and player" Luis Chiriboga Acosta said. He added that the FEF would charter a flight to return the deceased player's body to Ecuador along with his wife a process international team-mates such as Manchester United's Antonio Valencia would help with. Chiriboga also announced that the main pitch at the national team's training ground would be named after Benitez. Birmingham will mark the player's death ahead of Saturday's Championship match against Watford at St Andrew's. The club said: "The thoughts of all associated with the club are with Chucho's family and friends at this very sad time. "The Ecuador international was an immensely popular character during his time at the club."
Christian Benitez: Former Birmingham striker dies aged 27
BBC | Jul 29