Birmingham plan pre-match tribute to former striker Benitez

FORMER Birmingham striker Christian Benitez, 27, died suddenly yesterday after suffering a cardio-respiratory arrest, just hours after making his debut in Qatar.

Ecuador international Benitez was admitted to hospital with severe stomach pains after playing for El Jaish against Qatar Sport Club and died soon afterwards.

Known affectionately as Chucho, Benitez scored four times in 36 appearances during his season-long loan spell from Mexican side Santos Laguna, helping the Blues to finish ninth in the Premier League in 2010.

And the club has announced plans to mark his passing ahead of their first game of the season.

A statement read: “The thoughts of all associated with the football club are with Chucho’s family and friends at this very sad time.

“Chucho’s passing will now be marked at St. Andrew’s ahead of Saturday’s fixture against Watford.

“The Ecuador international was an immensely-popular character during his time at the football club.”

■ Scored four times during a season-long loan spell at Birmingham City in 2009-10, helping the Blues finish ninth in the Premier League

■ Won 58 caps for Ecuador, representing them at the World Cup in 2006 when they were eliminated by England in the last-16

■ Died aged 27, shortly after making his debut for Qatari club El Jaish

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