DOHA, Qatar (AP) – The body of striker Christian Benitez was being flown home to Ecuador on Thursday, three days after he died in Qatar.
The casket - covered in flowers and featuring a huge portrait of the 27-year-old striker - was accompanied by Benitez's wife, Liseth Chala, and other relatives.
Officials from Qatari club El Jaish and several players also came to the airport to offer their final goodbyes.
"We would like to convey our greatest condolences to the family of the bereaved, and also to El Jaish club and also to all Ecuadorean fans," Qatari league deputy CEO Hani Ballan said. "Benitez was one of the well-known players and really one of the top players."
Benitez joined El Jaish in July. The club said he died Monday of heart failure, a day after playing his first match for the club. Ecuador officials said Benitez was taken to the hospital with sharp stomach pains, developed peritonitis and died of cardiorespiratory arrest.
El Jaish said Thursday that Benitez had complained of stomach pains but described him as strong and healthy. The club said Benitez passed a medical on July 4 and didn't complain of any health problems during Sunday's match, in which he came on as a second-half substitute.
"I don't think it was anything else, apart from heart attack, and a heart attack could happen any time, to a healthy or unhealthy person, and we know that he was a very healthy person, he is a strong player, and this is just a heart attack," El Jaish vice chairman Nasser Mohamad al-Ali said.
A funeral was planned for Thursday in Quito, along with separate tributes to the former Club America and Birmingham player.