Ecuadoran soccer player Christian "Chucho" Benitez died Monday after suffering a cardiorespiratory arrest following complications from appendicitis. He was 27.

The Ecuadoran Football Federation released a statement announcing Benitez’s sudden death. “Benitez, who was already [with] his new club in Qatar, had a severe stomach pain, [and] was rushed to a hospital, where after a few hours suffered cardio respiratory arrest, which ended his life,” the statement read. “The Ecuadorian Football Federation extends its heartfelt note of sympathy to [the] families, parents, wife, children and friends of our striker Cristian Benitez.”

The day prior to his death, Benitez played for Qatar Footall Association team El Jaish against Qatar Sports Club in the Sheik Jassim Club. Neither during nor after the game did Benitez complain of any discomfort. “His sudden departure is a big shock for each member of the technical and administrative staff,” the soccer club said in its own statement. “He was a player that over the short period he was here was regarded for his high moral character.”

Benitez earned 58 caps with the Ecuador national soccer team, scoring 24 goals, and led Ecuadorian club El Nacional to the Clasura 2005 and 2006 League Championships, scoring 29 goals in 83 matches. He also played with Santos Laguna and Club America and England club Birmingham.

Those who have played alongside Benitez were stunned to hear of the respected athlete's untimely passing. “It’s devastating news for his family and I’m sure Birmingham City will want to pay their respects,” Lee Carsley told the BBC. “I remember he had outstanding ability, was very quick and was a bit of a free spirit.”

Benitez is survived by his wife and two children.

– Chelsea Regan

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