A soccer referee is in a coma and fighting for his life after being punched during a youth game in Utah this weekend.
The referee, 46-year-old Ricardo Portillo, is in critical condition with swelling in his brain. His recovery is uncertain, and his family painted the situation in bleak terms, saying they are hoping for a miracle.
“I know he didn’t, he doesn’t want to leave us,” said his oldest daughter, Johana Portillo.
This incident took place at Eisenhower Junior High in Taylorsville, Utah in a recreational game among teenage players. The referee gave a yellow card to a player who committed a foul, and the 17-year-old player reacted by punching the ref.
Johana said her father was looking down to write in his notes when the player attacked out of nowhere. Portillo seemed fine at first, though a bit dizzy, but, when friends sat him down, he began vomiting blood. They immediately called for an ambulance.
Police Lt. Justin Hoyal called the soccer attack “almost an instinctive reaction.”
The man’s daughters had begged him to stop refereeing after a previous incident where an angry player broke Portillo’s leg and another instance where a player broke his ribs, but the referee was a longtime player and loved the game too much to leave.
“It was his passion,” Portillo said. “We could not tell him no.”
The teenager accused of putting the soccer referee into a coma is being held at a local juvenile detention facility and faces charges of aggravated assault. Portillo’s family members hope to see him face a harsh penalty for the crime.
“It’s just not fair,” said Johana Portillo. “This person caused us a lot of pain. I want justice for my dad, and we’re going to get it. … If he spends time in jail forever, it’s not enough. They are not going to bring my daddy back.”
If the soccer referee in the coma dies from his injuries, the teenager could face more charges,