Questions linger in Ecuador soccer player

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — 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.

Autopsy results have not been released by Benitez’s new Qatari club, El Jaish, which has yet to say how the 27-year-old forward died Monday. 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 as a substitute in the final 10 minutes. The team is awaiting a medical report that is expected today.

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.

Efforts to return Benitez’s body to Ecuador were held up by paperwork Tuesday. Soccer officials said the funeral was planned for Thursday in Quito and a tribute would be held in the 16,000-seat General Ruminahui Coliseum.

Burial is the same day in Monte Olivo cemetery, near the home of the national team, the Ecuador federation said.

Luis Chiriboga, the president of the federation, said arrangements have been made to transport the body. The federation was planning to fly the national team’s head doctor as well as Benitez’s father and mother to Qatar to accompany the body.

Benitez left behind three children. His father, Ermen, himself a one-time striker, told Futbolizados radio station in Ecuador: “We are destroyed.”

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. Benitez scored 24 goals in 58 appearances for Ecuador and was on its 2006 World Cup team.

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