You may have heard about Utah soccer ref Ricardo Portillo, who is still in a coma a week after allegedly being punched in the head by a 17-year-old player during a match. Portillo had just given the player a yellow card, and was taking notes when the assault allegedly occurred. Um, soccer? Can we have a talk? I thought you were the beautiful game.
So Portillo’s two daughters talked with the Salt Lake Tribune in a story that posted today, an I think you’ll be surprised to learn this:
[Johana] Portillo said this is the third time her father has been injured while refereeing a soccer match. Five years ago, players broke his ribs, and three years earlier broke his leg, she said.
“People get involved,” Johana Portillo said. “It’s not fair. We’re there to have fun, not kill each other.”
When asked if aggression occurs regularly at the games, Portillo nodded.
And this is in freakin’ Utah.
The player has been arrested but hasn’t yet been charged, as the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office mulls whether to try him as an adult. Portillo remains in critical condition.
So is this an anomaly, or are soccer refs normally treated so brutally in youth leagues?
UPDATE: A Berkeley, NJ Little League coach has been suspended for slapping a 17-year-old umpire during a game.
Police said witnesses told them that they saw [Thomas] Murphy “strike the umpire with an open right hand to his right ear after Murphy was ejected for arguing a call.” Police said 17-year-old umpire said he didn’t need medical treatment. The ages of the baseball players who witnessed the umpire get slapped were 10, 11 and 12 years old, police said.
Our course from here on in is clear: Nike combat officiating uniforms.