Bassel Saad pleaded for forgiveness as he was sentenced to a minimum of eight years in prison for the ‘involuntary manslaughter’ of referee John Bieniewicz last year.
Saad, 37, was set to be handed a red card in a men’s league game and punched Bieniewicz, who died from the attack.
Bieniewicz’s widow held up a red card of her own at the sentencing, and thinks the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. Saad is eligible for parole in 2023, but could see as many as 15 years in prison with the chance for deportation.
She said the sentence and plea deal were generous, adding: “It will always be murder in my eyes.”
“One man has enough pent-up frustration, enough vengeance in his heart, that with one blow he can take my husband’s life and in the process destroy not only my family but his family,” Bieniewicz said.
Saad, 37, will be eligible for parole after eight years. The maximum punishment is 15 years in prison, and he also could be deported. He expressed remorse and said he prays daily for the Bieniewicz family, which includes two children.
“I hope he’s with us, he can hear me. … I hope one day they forgive me,” Saad said.
The story has served as an important example that is unfortunately necessary: We all take sports far too seriously, and it should never ever come to violence on the pitch, even more so against an official.