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Ecuador to fly home body of soccer star

Published July 30, 2013 3:17 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Doha, Qatar • With questions surrounding the death of striker Christian Benitez, Ecuador's soccer federation said Tuesday a plane has been hired to bring the player's body home.

The Qatari club El Jaish has not said how the 27-year-old player died. But the team said he didn't complain about his health Sunday after playing his first match with the club in hot and humid conditions.

The club said he passed a medical checkup July 4 and entered the game a substitute in the final 10 minutes. The team is awaiting a medical report that is expected Wednesday.

The game was played in 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.

Luis Chiriboga, the president of Ecuador's federation, said arrangements have been made to transport the body. Benitez's father, Ermen, is expected accompany the plane. The federation and the country's Ministry of Sport are also helping Benitez's mother, Beatriz Betancourt, travel to Qatar from Italy.

"As a parent I am a bit calm because of God's grace. God says that life goes on, but inside I am a little hurt," said Ermen Benitez, himself a former striker. "How will this be for his wife or his mother who are living in Italy and for his grandmother who is living in Quito."

Benitez, a powerful striker, helped America win the Mexican championship last season and also played for Birmingham. He moved to El Jaish for the upcoming season.