Christian Benitez, an Ecuadorian soccer player who made his name at Birmingham City and later Club America in Mexico, died Monday after suffering a heart attack. Benitez, aka “Chucho”, transferred to Qatari club Al Jaish this summer and made his debut a day before his death. He was 27.
Here’s part of the statement issued by the Ecuadorian Football Federation:
"‘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 suffered he suffered a cardiorespiratory arrest, which ended his life."
The Associated Press cites the heat of Qatar in the summer in their report on his death:
"The match was played in hot and humid conditions, which are typical of the Persian Gulf at this time of year. “The player participated for the first time with the team during yesterday’s match against Qatar Sports Club in the Sheik Jassim Cup without complaining of any health problems,” the club said."
At this stage it’s difficult to jump to a conclusion that the heat alone caused Benitez to have a heart attack. Remember, until moving to Qatar, he’d been playing his home matches at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, which is noted for its heat, humidity and high elevation above sea level, along with poor air quality. The club won the 2013 Clausura tournament earlier this year with Benitez scoring 17 goals scored before being sold for a large sum in the neighborhood of $15 million to Al Jaish.
That said, the cat is already out of the bag as headlines across the web have linked the “heat attack,” “heat” and “Qatar.” This isn’t the sort of news FIFA needed about its decision to host the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Seemingly each passing day there’s a new report the event will be moved from the summer to the winter to avoid the excessive heat.
Regardless, a heartfelt rest in peace goes out to Benitez, who had one of the most unique hairstyles we’ve seen in the Premier League this century which is saying something.