Christian Benitez died a day after the Ecuador national soccer team player made his debut for his new Qatari club.
Benitez, 27, who joined El Jaish on a three-year contract from Mexico’s Club America this month, was rushed to the hospital where he suffered cardiac arrest shortly after complaining about stomach pains, according to a statement on the Ecuador soccer federation’s website.
Benitez, known as Chucho, reported no ill effects after playing in El Jaish’s 2-0 victory over Qatar Sports Club in the Sheikh Jassem Cup yesterday, the team said.
“The sudden death of Benitez came as a shock for all team players and members of the technical and administrative staff and all members of El Jaish club family,” according to a statement on the El Jaish website.
Signing Benitez was a coup for Qatari soccer. The striker finished as the top scorer in Mexico last season, helping his team to the league championship. Prior to that Benitez played for one season in England’s Premier League with Birmingham city.
“Club America football team deeply regrets the death of one of the most recent America idols, and shares the sorrow felt by the entire Benitez Betancourt family, and the sport in Mexico, Ecuador and the world,” the club said on its website.
Qatar won the right to stage the 2022 World Cup and is at the center of controversy over when that event should be played. Sepp Blatter, president of FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, said last week the tournament should be moved from its traditional June-July schedule because of the risk posed by the Gulf state’s hot weather. Such a move is being resisted by European soccer’s top leagues, which argue that their calendars would be disrupted if the schedule is changed.
Qatar’s capital, Doha, had a high temperature yesterday of 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), according to the Weather Channel’s website. Qatar has pledged World Cup games will be played in air-cooled stadiums if the tournament is staged in the summer months.
“I’ve had many people come to Qatar during June and it wasn’t the horror story people expected, that they would burst in flames,” Qatar World Cup organizing committee general secretary Hassan Al Thawadi told a conference in Rio de Janeiro last month. “It’s not Armageddon.”
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