In the past week, the U.S. continued its eleven-match winning streak by capturing the Gold Cup while Atletico Mineiro of Brazil overcame a two-goal deficit to earn its first ever Copa Libertadores title. Off the field, however, the soccer world is mourning the sudden death of one of Ecuador’s top players.
Twenty-seven-year-old Christian Benitez passed away on Monday in Qatar only one day after playing his first game for new side El Jaish.
The cause of death has yet to be established though a statement issued by El Jaish noted that Benitez “participated in yesterday's match against Qatar Sports Club in the Sheikh Jassem Cup without complaining of any health problems.” Nevertheless, Benitez’ agent, Jose Chamorro, told an Ecuadorian TV station that the striker may have died due to a possible heart attack.
The player affectionately nicknamed “Chucho” is being mourned in his native Ecuador where the country’s president, Rafael Correa, who mourned the “tragedy that has hit us all”.
“You will always be my brother,” tweeted Ecuadorian soccer star Antonio Valencia along with a photo of Benitez during his time with El Nacional of Ecuador.
He is also being remembered in Mexico where he tallied over 100 goals in a four-year period for Santos Laguna and Club America.
"Olé, olé, olé Chucho, Chucho" chanted dozens of Club America fans who gathered this morning at the club’s training ground with photos, posters and replica jerseys of Benitez.
“RIP ‘Chucho’ Benitez…you will live forever in the hearts of your fans,” tweeted ex-Mexican international and Santos Laguna legend Jared Borgetti.
FOXSports.com soccer writer Kyle McCarthy observed that Benitez “accomplished plenty during his truncated time in the game” but also lamented that his death came much too soon:
Benítez traveled to Qatar with plenty still to accomplish. He faced the prospect of settling into a new league and supplying the goals expected of him. He featured prominently in Ecuador's currently successful efforts to secure a return to the World Cup and hoped to appear in his second World Cup next year.
Benitez’ body is expected to be repatriated to Ecuador in the upcoming days though funeral arrangements have not been announced yet.
All of those objectives appeared firmly within Benítez's grasp before the unthinkable struck on Sunday night. The end arrived far too soon for a talented player with so much left to accomplish in the game. And now his colleagues and his supporters are left to wonder how much more he would have achieved if not for the tragedy that befell him.
Ceremonies commemorating Benitez will be held before matches of the soccer clubs he played for including English side Birmingham.
Video Source– YouTube via user Cadena3Noticias
Online Sources – El Jaish; BBC Sport; FOXSports.com; Twitter; La Hora; USA TODAY; Bloomberg; Herald Sun; centraldeportiva.com