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Death of soccer star Benitez leaves family, fans reeling

Story highlights

  • Ermen Benitez tells CNN en Español the family is awaiting medical reports
  • Christian Benitez died suddenly Monday at the age of 27
  • The forward passed away just a day after making debut for Qatari side El Jaish
  • Death prompts outpouring of emotion on Twitter for former Birmingham player

Family members of Christian "Chucho" Benitez are still awaiting medical and autopsy reports to find out what killed the soccer star, his father said.

"We are hoping the documents tell us what happened," Ermen Benitez told CNN en Español on Tuesday.

They are also awaiting documents from the Qatari government so that his son's remains can be transported from Doha to Quito, Ecuador, he said.

Jose Chamorro, the player's agent, told an Ecuadorian television station that Benitez, 27, had suffered a heart attack and died Monday in a Qatari hospital where he was taken after complaining of abdominal pains.

Ermen Benitez said his son never had any cardiac problems, and before he jointed Qatar's El Jaish club, he had a clean bill of health.

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"When a football player is signed, they always do tests," he said. "And he passed."

    Asked about a report that Benitez's wife had claimed the soccer star did not receive immediate medical attention at the hospital, Ermen Benitez said he didn't want to speculate until he had the medical report.

    With many unanswered questions, one thing is clear: his family and fans are devastated.

    Prayers and condolences pouring in from around the world have helped, said his father -- who is himself a former soccer star and remains the top league scorer in Ecuadorian football history.

    "It fills me with a bit of calmness," he said, "but I am never going to see him again. Now the joy I had when I watched him playing is over."

    Having played at the 2006 World Cup as a youngster, Benitez had developed into an important component of an Ecuadorian side bidding to reach next year's finals in Brazil.

    His 24 international goals make him the third-highest scorer overall for Ecuador's national team.

    In a statement on its website, El Jaish described Benitez's death as "a great loss for the team" and said the Ecuadorian player had "high morals."

    The Ecuadorian Football Association said on its website that Benitez's remains were expected to arrive in Ecuador by Thursday morning.

    Benitez made his name at El Nacional, a club where his father played with great success throughout the 1980s.

    After leaving the Quito side, who posted a tribute on their website to Christian on Monday, the South American plied his trade with such success for Mexico's Santos Laguna that he alerted the interest of the English Premier League.

    Joining Birmingham City on loan in 2009, the Ecuadorian made his debut at Manchester United and scored his first goal at Liverpool.

    Despite a bright start, his impact faded over the season, prompting Birmingham manager Alex McLeish to return Benitez to Santos Laguna in 2010.

    After leading the scoring charts, he joined rivals America in 2011 and helped the club win this year's Clausura title -- finishing as top scorer along the way.

    He died on Monday, one day after playing his first game for new side El Jaish.

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