Christian Benitez takes on Chelsea in the Premier League
Christian Benitez takes on Chelsea in the Premier League

Former Birmingham City striker Christian Benitez has died only hours after playing a match in Qatar.

The Ecuador international passed away not long after finishing his debut for new club El Jaish.

According to reports, the 27-year-old fell ill soon after the final whistle and was rushed to hospital with stomach pains.

He died there from a heart attack following complications with peritonitis - a condition affecting the tissue covering the internal organs, his father-in-law told local radio in Ecuador.

Cleber Chala, Benitez's father-in-law and a former professional footballer himself, wrote on Twitter: "A great has left us... You will live in our hearts forever Chucho."

Al Jaish paid a reported £10m to sign Benitez from Mexico's Club America.

Details are sketchy on the full circumstances of his death, but Al Jaish confirmed Benitez had passed away.

Birminghan City announced it will dedicate this season's Championship curtain-raiser against Watford to the man who wore the nickame 'Chucho', a slang South American term for mongrel, on his shirt.

"RIP Christian 'Chucho' Benitez. Forever in our hearts," said a spokesman on Twitter. "The thoughts of all at Birmingham City Football Club are with the friends and family of Chucho following this very sad news.

"The club will be looking to mark the passing of Chucho at St. Andrew's ahead of this Saturday's fixture against Watford."

Tributes poured in to Benitez, who was capped 58 times for Ecuador and came to prominence at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Manchester Utd star Antonio Valencia used Twitter to post a snap of the pair together, and spoke of his "sharp pain" at the tragic news.

Benetiz played in the Premier League for Birmingham during the 2009-10 season, hitting four goals in 35 games.

His goals included three in the Premier League against Liverpool, Portsmouth and Wigan Athletic. He also netted against Everton in the FA Cup.