News Column

Punched Soccer Ref Dies

may 6

Ricardo Portillo's daughters had begged him to stop refereeing in a Hispanic soccer league because of the growing risk of violence from angry players.

Now they're faced with planning his funeral after he succumbed to injuries late Saturday that had put him in a coma for a week since a 17-year-old goalie punched him in the head.

Authorities say the teen punched Portillo after the youth was called for a foul and issued a yellow card.

"The suspect was close to Portillo and punched him once in the face as a result of the call," Unified police spokesman Justin Hoyal said.

The suspect has been booked into juvenile detention on suspicion of aggravated assault. Hoyal said authorities will consider additional charges now that the 46-year-old Salt Lake City man has died. Hoyal said an autopsy is planned. No cause of death was released.

Portillo suffered swelling in his brain, physician Shawn Smith said at the Intermountain Medical Center.

At a candlelight vigil Sunday night, Portillo's family called on athletes around the world to hold their tempers in check so another family doesn't have to suffer.

"He was a father, he was a friend, he was a grandfather, he left a whole family behind," said Johana Portillo, 26, the oldest of his three daughters. "They should think before they do something stupid."

Asked if she can forgive the teenager, Johana Portillo said she hopes to someday, but isn't ready yet.

"I feel sorry for him. I feel for his family," she said Sunday. "But if he was old enough to do what he did, then he's responsible to pay for it."

The unaffiliated soccer league, Liga Continental de Futbol, updated its Facebook posting with a tribute to Portillo. It also set up a bank account to accept donations for his family.

Johana Portillo said last week that she wasn't at the April27 game in the Salt Lake City suburb of Taylorsville, but she said she has been told by witnesses and detectives that the player hit her father on the side of the head.

After being punched, Portillo seemed fine at first, then said he felt dizzy. He sat down and vomited blood, triggering a friend to call an ambulance. When Portillo arrived at the hospital, he slipped into a coma.

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2013

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