Christian Benitez, a popular Ecuadoran soccer star, died suddenly Sunday in Doha in Qatari after being taken to a hospital, less than a month after signing with Qatari club El Jaish, stunning soccer fans around the world.
Benitez, 27, was admitted to a hospital after severe stomach pains and died of a heart attack hours later, according the Ecuador Football Federation.
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The Ecuadorian team had high hopes for Benitez, who played for his country's World Cup team since 2006. Soccer fans expected he would give team a boost at next year's competition in Brazil. His 24 international goals made him the third highest scorer overall on Ecuador's national team, CNN International reported.
Benitez, known by the nickname "Chucho," was the top scorer in the Mexican league last season.
Manchester United star Antonio Valencia, who played with Benitez in Ecuador a decade ago, was among those who expressed sadness by the loss.
"This pain (is) very strong my brother but we love you," Valencia wrote on Twitter.
BBC Sports reported Birmingham, where Benitez played professionally
, will mark the player's death ahead of Saturday's championship match against Watford at St Andrew's.
"The thoughts of all associated with the club are with Chucho's family and friends at this very sad time," the club said in statement. "The Ecuador international was an immensely popular character during his time at the club."
Lee Carsley, one of Benitez's former Birmingham teammates told BBC Sports that the Ecuador star was a popular teammate with immense soccer talent.
"It's devastating news for his family and I'm sure Birmingham City will want to pay their respects," said Carsley, the former Republic of Ireland midfielder. "I remember he had outstanding ability, was very quick and was a bit of a free spirit. He had a big personality and he burst on to the scene when he came on at Old Trafford in 2009."
Another former Birmingham teammate, Craig Gardner, tweeted to BBC Sports: "Cannot believe Christian Benitez has died. I had the pleasure to play with him. He was a top bloke. My thoughts go out to his family."
Benitez was the son of Ermen Benitez, one of Ecuador's all-time leading goal scorers.
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