Christian "Chucho" Benitez, who won three scoring titles in the Mexican league and played for Ecuador at the 2006 World Cup, died at age 27 on Monday after making his debut for Qatar club El Jaish on Sunday.
Benitez was hospitalized with severe stomach pain hours after the Sheikh Jassem Cup and died shortly afterward. Early reports cited cardio-respiratory arrest.
"This morning we woke feeling profound pain, a pain that all Ecuadorans share, after losing an extraordinary human being, a son, friend, husband and player," Ecuadoran federation president Luis Chiriboga said in a statement.
The Quito native left El Nacional for Mexico’s Santos Laguna at age 21. He scored 17 goals in his first season and was named the best player in the 2008 Torneo Clausura as Santos, where he was teammates with U.S. defender Edgar Castillo, won the title.
After a second season at Santos, Benitez joined Birmingham City, then playing in the English Premier League, on loan, but eventually returned to Mexico when an agreement on a transfer fee could not be reached between Santos and Birmingham.
After his return to Mexico in 2010, he won one scoring title with Santos and two with Club America, with which he lifted the league championship last May.