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Recreational soccer ref dies after being punched in face by player

May 06, 2013|By Chuck Schilken

A recreational league soccer referee died Saturday night, a week after being punched in the head for issuing a yellow card to a teenage player.

Nearly 100 people attended a candlelight vigil Sunday night for 46-year-old Ricardo Portillo on the front lawn of his Salt Lake City home.

“He was a father, he was a friend, he was a grandfather; he left a whole family behind," his 26-year-old daughter, Johana Portillo, said. "They should think before they do something stupid.”

According to accounts from a police report and witnesses, Portillo issued a yellow card to a 17-year-old goalie for pushing an opposing player. The teenager, who was much heavier than the referee, argued with Portillo, then punched him in the face.

Portillo is said to have seemed fine at first, but then felt dizzy. He sat down and started vomiting blood. By the time the police arrived, he was lying in the fetal position and complained of pain in his face and back. After arriving at a hospital, he slipped into a coma due to swelling in his brain, officials said.

The suspect in the case, whose name is withheld because he's a minor, has been booked into juvenile detention on suspicion of aggravated assault, but authorities said they will consider additional charges in the wake of Portillo's death.

No cause of death has been released, but an autopsy is planned.

Johana Portillo said her father had been attacked twice before during his eight years as a soccer referee, resulting in injuries such as broken legs and ribs. She said she and his other two daughters had begged him to quit, but he wouldn't.

“It was his passion,” she said. “We could not tell him no.”

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