Referee dead

Tragedy in Michigan: Referee dies after being punched by player

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Just one day after The Guardian ran a comprehensive piece on the vibrant adult soccer scene in Detroit, there’s a tragic story coming out of the Michigan city’s suburbs.

Veteran referee John Bieniewicz has died as a result of injuries suffered from a punch to the head from a player during an over-30 men’s game on Sunday.

The 20-year referee was in the process of ejecting player Baseel Abdul-Amir Saad from a game when the player struck him in the head. Saad was “arraigned Monday on a charge of assault with intent to do great bodily harm.”

And so a men’s league game has led to the death of a father, husband and respected official.

From the Associated Press:

Bieniewicz, 44, was a dialysis technician at Mott Children’s Hospital who lived in the Detroit suburb of Westland with his wife and two sons, said Acho, who was a classmate of Bieniewicz’s at Catholic Central High School.

“I speak for all his friends when I say we are devastated. Crushed. Just a senseless way for a great guy to go out,” Acho said. “He deserved better.”

The incident, along with a similar death in Utah last year when a referee was killed by a teenage player, is raising concern about the safety of amateur sports.

“Never in my life did I think it would happen here,” Joseph Cosenza, a player in the game Sunday, told Fox 2 News in Detroit.

“All of that over a meaningless, know-nothing, over-30 men’s soccer league that, honestly, it’s not worth it,” Cosenza said.

“You know, we all want to go and play, but the more I talk to friends, the more they say it’s not worth playing anymore, because this is starting to happen more and more often.”

These brutal stories are necessary to publicize, as the photo of the man and his family, if only to remind players, coaches and parents time and time again that real people are officiating and playing alongside you. It’s not a video game.

Our condolences to Bieniewicz’s family, friends and the entire Detroit soccer community.

Report: Young referee in Ghana dies days after beating at match

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It’s a Tweet liable to sent chills down the spine, and the news it relays is grim and discomfiting.

Details are trickling out of Ghana this Sunday that a beating that occurred earlier this week has led to the death of a young referee in Africa.

Kyei Andoh was officiating a third-tier match between Bordie-based Gold Stars and Naajoe United when he was assaulted during and after the match by supporters of the hometown Gold Stars. After the match, he returned home and did not seek medical care.

His older brother, Kweku Andoh Kyei, told Asempa FM that his brother was joking with his family about the beating before his injuries got worse over time for the young man.

“That the home team assaulted him of the sort. He was even joking about the issue that one guy gave him a slap while others manhandled him.

“And then on Friday I was called and told that my brother was vomiting blood and had fainted. I was later called only to be told that he has passed away.”

It’s a horrifying story, and one that is sure to have severe repercussions throughout Ghana’s soccer structure.

Six Dutch teenagers convicted for manslaughter after beating referee to death

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Justice has been served in Holland where six young soccer players have been convicted of manslaughter for their part in kicking a linesman to death.

Richard Nieuwenhuizen, 41, died last November following a beating he had taken during after a U-17 match between Buitenboys and Nieuw Sloten. The match was played in Almere, a city just east of Amsterdam, and ended in a 2-2 draw after Nieuw Sloten came back from being down 2-0.

Following the match the players shook hands with the three volunteer officials, before Mr. Nieuwenhuizen was knocked to the ground by several members of the Nieuw-Sloten team. Nieuwenhuizen was punched and kicked in the head before parents intervened. Nieuwenhuizen got up but was knocked back to the ground a second time. All of this happened in front of Nieuwenhuizen’s 15 year old son Mykel, who was playing in the match for Buitenboys.

Following the beating Nieuwenhuizen was able to stand up and stated that he did not want to call the police. He returned home for a brief spell but collapsed later that afternoon as he was watching another youth team game. He was transported to the hospital where he died of repeated blows to the head and neck.

Charges were brought against six Nieuw-Sloten players and one father of a player. At the ensuing criminal trial the prosecutor informed the judge that the defendants should be considered jointly guilty of manslaughter, regardless of who physically assaulted Nieuwenhuizen. The prosecutor also argued that given the defendants’ actions, there was no question the group deliberately wanted to kill Nieuwenhuizen and they knew there was a chance he would die.

All six youths were found guilty of manslaughter and five were handed two year sentences in youth detention centers while the other was given a one year sentence. The father was also convicted and given six years in prison.

News of Nieuwenhuizen’s death and the resulting convictions accentuates the increasing need for soccer governing bodies, from FIFA to local leagues, to enact regulations that provide greater protection for match referrees. It was only six weeks ago that a referee named Ricardo Portillo was killed after being punched by a 17 year old player during a match in Salt Lake City.

More: Utah soccer referee dies after teen punches him in the face