TAYLORSVILLE, Utah (CNN)-
A referee who died after being punched by a teenage player knew well the violence that too often surfaced in his recreational soccer league. But neither he nor his family thought it would turn deadly, his heartbroken daughter told CNN Monday.
“The first time he got attacked was like 10 years ago. He was a player. He got a broken leg,” Johana Portillo said on CNN’s “Starting Point.”
“And then the next time it was about five years ago I think. He had a broken rib, being attacked by a player, too. … I was like, ‘Why do you keep doing it? You just keep just hurting yourself.’ He said that that was his risk because that was his passion.”
She worried often about her father, she said. But she was shocked by the call she got days ago. “I never thought it was going to be this serious.”
Police: Teen punched ref in the face
On April 27, Ricardo Portillo, 46, was refereeing a game of Fut International, a Hispanic soccer league for children between ages 5 and 17, in the Salt Lake City suburb of Taylorsville.
He cited a player for an infraction and issued him a cautionary “yellow card.” A second infraction would result in the player’s ejection from the game.
The 17-year-old player, police say, turned around and punched Portillo in the face.
At first, authorities thought Portillo suffered only minor injuries. But at the hospital, doctors discovered serious internal head injuries.
For seven days he remained in critical condition.
On Saturday night, Portillo died from his injuries.
Player in juvenile detention
The teenager, who has not been named publicly, is in juvenile detention.
Police initially charged him with aggravated assault. But with Portillo’s death, authorities expect to upgrade the charges.
League president Mario Vasquez told CNN affiliate KUTV he did not know the suspect personally, and was not aware of other incidents involving the player.
The league has a no-tolerance policy and kicks out players if they engage in violence toward each other, referees or parents, Vasquez said.
Family in shock
Portillo had three daughters and three grandchildren, who live in Mexico. He moved to the United States 16 years ago.
“I just need time to heal. It’s a lot of pain that this kid caused my whole family, especially my sisters and I,” Johana Portillo told CNN, adding that they’re in shock.
“I will forgive this kid because it’s only in God’s hands. … But right now, it’s too soon for me to forgive.”
Similar incident in the Netherlands
There was a similar attack in the Netherlands in December. Police charged two 15-year-olds and a 16-year-old who beat a 41-year-old linesman during an amateur soccer game.
The linesman’s son was playing in the game when the incident occurred.
The linesman, Richard Nieuwenhuizen, fell into a coma and died the next day.
By Jackie Castillo and Josh Levs
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