Utah soccer referee dies after teen punches him in the face

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Horrible news out of Utah late last night as a soccer referee has died after slipping into a coma following being punched in the face by a teenage player during a game played on Saturday April 27th.

Ricardo Portillo of Salt Lake City passed away at Intermountain Medical Center where he was being treated for a punch he received after whistling a 17 year old player for a foul and issuing him a yellow card. The player, who has not been named because of his age, reportedly threw a single punch at Portillo.

The punch caused Portillo to suffer swelling in his brain, landing him in critical condition. While no cause of death has been released, a planned autopsy is expected to confirm the punch as the proximate cause.

Police continue to collect details of the incident and as of now, most are based on hearsay. But it appears that the teen was playing goalkeeper when he pushed an opposing forward who was in the midst of a goal scoring opportunity. Portillo deemed the contact to be egregious enough to warrant a caution.

The player immediately began arguing with Portillo before unleashing a punch to the side of the referee’s head. Portillo was reportedly writing down the booking at the time of the punch. Following the punch Portillo appeared to be OK but then claimed he felt dizzy. He sat down and started vomiting blood, at which time his friend called an ambulance.

When police arrived at Eisenhower Junior High School in Taylorsville, the goalkeeper was nowhere to be found. Portillo was conscious but in the fetal position complaining of nausea and pain in his face and back. EMT’s transported him to the hospital in fair condition but soon after arriving he slipped into a coma with swelling in his brain.

Detectives searched for the player and his father brought the 17 year old in to speak with police.

Apparently, this is not the first time Portillo had been attacked in a match. Portillo’s family claims he had been attacked before, and the referee’s daughter, 26 year old Johanna Portillo, said she and her sisters begged their father to stop refereeing because of the risk from angry players.

Portillo refused, however, because of his love for soccer. “It was his passion,” she said. “We could not tell him no.”

Following the incident the player was booked into juvenile detention on suspicion of aggravated assault. With Portillo’s death, the teen will now be charged with homicide, likely manslaughter. The major determination of the player’s punishment will be whether or not he is charged as an adult. In Utah, there are several circumstances under which a juvenile may be tried in adult court. These include cases where the juvenile is fourteen years or older and has been charged with a serious felony.

Japan upsets ten-man Colombia in Group H opener

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On paper, the 61st-ranked team in the world beating the 16th-ranked team in the world is a massive upset. But considering the circumstances within the game, perhaps this wasn’t an upset after all.

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Two set pieces were the difference as Japan defeated ten-man Colombia, 2-1 on Tuesday morning in Saransk. Colombia played with ten men for nearly the entire match, after Carlos Sanchez was sent off for a handball in the box and a denial of a goal scoring opportunity.

The game took a massive turn in the third minute, as Colombia centerback Davinson Sanchez failed to control a pass and Yuya Osako found himself free on goal. His shot was parried away by Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina but Kagawa’s rebound shot was clearly blocked by Sanchez’s right arm. The referee, Damir Skomina immediately pointed to the penalty spot and went to the back pocket, sending Sanchez to the showers.

Kagawa stepped up and cooly sent Ospina the wrong way to put Japan on top.

Late in the first half, after both teams had chances on target, Colombia came back and evened the scoreline.

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Juan Fernando Quintero, starting in place of the recovering James Rodriguez, smartly took a free kick and fired it low, under the wall as it jumped. Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima reacted late and although he arrived as the ball was crossing the line, he couldn’t keep it from going over, tying the game in the 39th minute.

Ultimately, despite its efforts, Colombia began to tire and on a corner kick, the Blue Samurai took back the lead and control of their destiny in Group H. A corner kick from Keisuke Honda was re-directed past Ospina by Osako, who jumped well over Santiago Arias, to give Japan a 2-1 lead in the 75th minute.

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Rodriguez was introduced in the 57th minute but try as he did, Colombia was unable to find the final pass in the box, and Japan held on for the unexpected victory.

With the win, Japan top Group H ahead of a meeting with Senegal, while Colombia will have to regroup to face Poland.

In a World Cup full of unexpected results, Tuesday brought yet another memorable win for an underdog.

New Zealand women footballers rebel against national coach

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Wellington, New Zealand (AP) Only weeks after New Zealand Football made headlines by signing a revolutionary equal pay deal with its female players, the organization is facing a mutiny by members of its women’s team against the national coach.

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New Zealand Football confirmed on Tuesday it had received a letter signed by a number of New Zealand players complaining about the methods and tactics employed by Austria-born coach Andreas Heraf.

The complaints follow the New Zealand team’s recent 3-1 loss at home to Japan. Heraf angered his players, and fans of the Football Ferns national team, by taking an entirely defensive game plan into the rare home international.

Heraf then further angered his players with comments defending his approach.

He said there was “a big difference in quality” between the New Zealand and Japanese players and that New Zealand “will never have that quality” to compete with top teams like Japan. He said the scoreline might have been 8-0 if New Zealand had not adopted a defensive approach.

One of New Zealand’s leading players, United States-based Abby Erceg, retired after playing 132 matches for New Zealand, citing Heraf’s approach in previous international matches.

She later told New Zealand media: “I couldn’t stand to wear that (national symbol) on my chest any more when his vision was to cower in a corner and not get beat by too much.”

New Zealand Football defended Heraf against the media and public criticism but admitted his comments were “strange” and “wrong” and did not accurately reflect his views. Heraf later apologized and said he had not expressed himself clearly.

But efforts to dampen the controversy have failed. New Zealand Football said in a statement it had “received a letter from the NZ Professional Footballers Association (NZPFA) last night with a number of complaints from the players of the Football Ferns.”

The mutiny comes only weeks after New Zealand gained international headlines for a deal which gives female pay parity with their male counterparts.

New Zealand Football signed the deal which provided female players with equal match payments, travel arrangements and prize money.

At the time, New Zealand women’s captain Ali Riley said the deal meant New Zealand would “be able to compete against the top teams, to be able to do well at a World Cup and the Olympics – this is what we needed.”

VIDEO: Colombia sees red, Japan takes early lead

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The first red card of the World Cup came just moments after fans took their seats in Saransk.

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After David Ospina blocked a breakaway opportunity from Yuya Osako in the third minute of the match, Japan star and former Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa fired the rebound on goal. But his shot was blocked by the arm of Colombia midfielder Carlos Sanchez, which earned him a straight red card from referee Damir Skomina and an early trip to the locker room.

Kagawa then stepped up to the spot and calmly sent Ospina the wrong way to give Japan the shock early lead.

Colombia will play the rest of the match with ten men and no James Rodriguez, who was named to the bench for this match as he recovers from a reported calf injury.

Rodriguez out of Colombia starting XI

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Taking a page out of Egypt’s book, Colombia will be without its talismanic playmaker for its first match, Tuesday morning against Japan.

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Juan Fernando Quintero replaced James Rodriguez in Colombia’s starting Xi to take on Japan in Saransk as Colombia coach Jose Pekerman clearly hopes a few extra days of recovery for the injured Rodriguez will help him return to 100 percent fitness. Rodriguez is battling a reported calf injury.

Rodriguez scored six goals and had two assists in five games at the last World Cup in Brazil, helping guide Los Cafeteros to their first World Cup quarterfinals appearance.