Soccer referee punched by teen goalie dies

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MURRAY, Utah -- Ricardo Portillo's daughters had begged him to stop refereeing in a 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 in a statement.

The suspect has been booked into juvenile detention on suspicion of aggravated assault. Hoyal said authorities will consider additional charges since the 46-year-old Salt Lake City man has died.

The unaffiliated soccer league, Liga Continental de Fútbol, updated its Facebook posting yesterday with a tribute to Portillo including a number of photographs of him refereeing and playing soccer. It also set up a bank account to accept donations for his family.

Mario Vazquez, the league president who also was a friend and worked with Portillo, said yesterday everyone in the league had the greatest respect for him.

"We will miss him at the soccer fields. He loved the game and loved doing his job. Ricardo always had a great sense of humor and loved being in the service of others," Vazquez said.

Daughter Johana Portillo, 26, said last week that she wasn't at the April 27 game in the Salt Lake City suburb of Taylorsville, but she said she's been told by witnesses and detectives that the player hit her father in the side of the head.

"When he was writing down his notes, he just came out of nowhere and punched him," she said. She did not immediately respond to a text message request for comment The Associated Press sent her Sunday.

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-- AP

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