Ecuador plans tribute to player who died in Qatar
Jul. 30, 2013
QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — Officials were preparing Tuesday to repatriate the body of Ecuadorean soccer star Christian Benitez, who died in Qatar a day after playing a game for local soccer team El Jaish.
Autopsy results have not been released, but Ecuadorean soccer chief Luis Chiriboga said he was told the 27-year-old was taken to a hospital with sharp stomach pains, developed peritonitis and died Monday of cardiorespiratory arrest.
Efforts to repatriate Benitez's body to his homeland were being held up by paperwork Tuesday, but soccer officials said the funeral for the star was planned for Thursday in Quito and that a tribute would be held in the General Ruminahui coliseum, which holds 16,000 people.
"The burial will be Thursday in the Monte Olivo cemetery, near the home of our National Team," said Francisco Acosta, secretary for the Ecuadorean Soccer Federation.
Chiriboga had earlier said the federation was planning to fly the chief doctor for Ecuador's national team as well as Benitez's father and mother to Qatar to accompany the remains.
Christian Benitez led the Mexican soccer league in scoring last season and helped his club America win the championship last season.
He had just played his first game for his new Qatari club when he died. El Jaish played Qatar Sports in the Sheik Jassim Cup, a warmup tournament for the upcoming season.
The club said Benitez did not complain about his health on Sunday.
The game was played in hot and humid conditions typical of the Persian Gulf this time of year. Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup and the searing heat has prompted many in soccer to call for the tournament to be moved to winter.
Ermen Benitez told Futbolizados radio station in Ecuador on Monday that his daughter-in-law told him the soccer star "had pain in his stomach and took a pill. They took him to a hospital and later came the news that we have all heard."
"We are destroyed," he said. Benitez left behind three children.
Benitez had 24 goals in 58 appearances for Ecuador and was on its 2006 World Cup team. He also spent a season in England with Birmingham.
"He was a very special human, so noble, so loyal to his team and to us. His human quality was luminary and catalyzing," said the coach of Ecuador's national soccer team, Reinaldo Rueda.