Christian Benitez was one of Ecuador’s leading players at 27 years old when he passed away in Qatar in 2013 from a cardiorespiratory arrest while playing club soccer for El Jaish SC. After making his debut, Benetiz spent the night in the hospital with severe stomach pains.
The gifted frontman, popularly known as Chucho to teammates and fans, died after his first game for Qatari club El-Jaish SC, having just finished top scorer at his previous Club America, who had swept the Mexican Torneo Clausura 2013 title. Chucho Benitez earned an exceptionally high reputation on Mexican soil, having won two domestic titles, four top-scorer awards, and two league’s best players awards in his time with Santos Laguna.
In 1986, Christian Benitez was born in Quito, Ecuador, and went on to follow in the footsteps of his father Ermen, the Ecuadorian league’s all-time leading scorer. As a teenager, he played with El Nacional, where his father had played. He soon became an integral part of that side that won the Torneo Clausura 2005 and Torneo Nacional 2006, to the extent that he was named the best player.
Christian Benitez World Cup Appearance
That year, Christian Benitez played in his first FIFA World Cup, although it was in a 3-0 defeat against Germany in Berlin. Apart from that single international appearance, Chucho represented Ecuador in two Copa Americas (Venezuela 2007 and Argentina 2011), though La Tri never advanced to the knockout stage on either occasion.
During Ecuador’s unsuccessful qualifying attempt for South Africa 2010, the forward appeared 14 times and netted three goals.
Within a year of moving to Santos Laguna, Christian Benitez helped them win the Torneo Clausura 2008 title, where he was named the league’s best player. However, after the English premier league team, Birmingham City signed him in 2009, his performances there fell short of expectations, so he returned to Los Laguneros the following year and topped the scorer’s charts in the Clausura of 2010.
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The talented player scored the most goals in the Clausura 2012 and Apertura 2012 championships in his second season with Mexican heavyweights America. In the latter, he was once more voted the division’s best player. The club expressed its deep sadness at the tragic passing of one of America’s most recent idols.
People filed past the glass-topped casket containing the deceased in Quito’s General Rumiñahui Coliseum. Rafael Correa, the president of Ecuador, attended the public funeral ceremony. Then, in crowded streets, a police motorbike escorted the cortege to a private interment. The Ecuador Football Federation retired Christian Benitez’s number 11 jersey after his sudden death. The Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, a 105,000-seat stadium, hosted a standing ovation in honor of Club America’s former striker in the 11th minute of their next match.
Christian Rogelio Benítez is regarded as one of the best players in history to compete in the top flight of Ecuadorian football. Chucho Benítez was spotted by top clubs such as Spain’s Villarreal CF due to his outstanding performances at El Nacional, although the club denied any interest.
He was linked with a transfer to Red Star Belgrade of the Serbian Super League. However, Benítez, in a short time, became the leading man of El Nacional, becoming the tournament’s top scorer and being a key figure in the 2006 Copa Libertadores.
In July 2007, Christian Benitez made an unexpected move with Santos Laguna of the Mexican First Division. Santos Laguna had an impressive season with victories in various Mexican soccer cups after his arrival along with Vicente Matías Vuoso. With Giancarlo Maldonado, Humberto Suazo, Salvador Cabañas and Héctor Mancilla, he was considered one of the best foreign strikers in the Mexican league.
In 2007, Benítez was recognized as the best Ecuadorian footballer outside of Ecuador. Benítez chose to remain in Mexico despite interest from Portuguese club Benfica. With his ten goals, he contributed to Santos winning the Clausura 2008 title, and his reward was selection as the best player of the season. Chucho Benítez is the fourth Ecuadorian to win a Mexican championship, after Ítalo Estupiñán, Álex Aguinaga, and Agustín Delgado.
On June 3, 2009, Birmingham City had announced the signing of Benítez on a three-year deal for a transfer fee from Santos Laguna, which the press speculates to be in the region of £6,000,000, increasing to £9 million over the next few years. The transfer was subject to the forward receiving a work permit and passing a medical examination.
The doctor revealed unforeseen knee problems, which led to the deal renegotiating on a “protected purchase” basis. The club would pay an initial sum of £1.2m with an option to cancel the agreement for medical reasons after the first year after that. After that, depending on appearances and success, the fee could rise to a club-record £7.7m. The player finally signed on July 7.
While he recovered from shoulder surgery and awaited his visa for the UK, Christian Benítez played in every Ecuador national team match without the permission of Birmingham City.
He made his Birmingham debut as a second-half substitute in Birmingham’s opening game of the season, a 1–0 loss to Manchester United. He came close to equalizing, drawing a wonderful one-handed dive save from English premier league goalkeeper Ben Foster.
His first league goal came against Hull City on September 19; he played a crucial role in the 1-0 win.
His first season produced just four goals, and Birmingham’s deal to renegotiate the agreed transfer fee was unsuccessful. As a result, the club decided not to accept the player’s purchase option, and the player returned to Santos Laguna.
Christian Benitez Returns To Santos Laguna
On July 21, 2010, Benítez signed a 3-year contract with Santos Laguna. Benítez stood out that season, scoring goals and becoming the top scorer in the 2010 Apertura with 14 goals, only the second Ecuadorian to win the Mexican League. With this, the interest of several teams was supposed to have their services. Among them was the Glasgow Celtic.
Unfortunately, for 2011, Chucho Benítez did not have the same luck as last season since he suffered many injuries that did not allow him to play. On his return, Benítez failed to recover his level and barely scored three goals throughout the season.
On May 22, 2011, it was announced that Club America signed him for the 2011 Apertura for USD 10 million, the highest figure so far in the history of Mexican soccer. On July 24, 2011, he made his official debut with the Águilas del América against the Gallos Blancos del Querétaro, scoring twice in the framework of the Azteca Stadium. Still, in the end, the referee determined the first goal as an own goal since a defense he deflected it to goalkeeper Liborio Sánchez. He came on as a substitute at minute 77 for Daniel Márquez, taking the applause of the American fans.
On August 21, 2011, Chucho scored his first “hat-trick” in the 5-2 win against Rojinegros del Atlas at the Azteca Stadium. The Ecuador international scored in the 69th, 77th, and 92nd minutes and set up a goal pass for the Uruguayan Vicente Sánchez in the 53rd.
On 6 July 2013, Christian Chuco signed a contract with the Qatari club El Jaish after officially leaving the club. In the Sheikh Jassim Cup, he made his debut on 28 July. This was his only appearance for the club. Benetiz spent the night in the hospital with severe stomach pains after making his debut. Sadly, he died the next day following a cardiac arrest at the age of 27.
Rhett is an Australian-born, globe trotter who is a UEFA ‘A’ Licence Soccer Coach. With his family, he has traveled and coached soccer in more than 30 countries, while attending World Cups, European Championships, and some of the biggest local derbies in the world!