Referee Dies

Testimony in death of Michigan referee provides disturbing glimpse into incident

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Some harrowing details emerged in the probable cause hearing for Bassel Saad, the American man charged with murder after punching and killing referee John Bieniewicz in a Michigan men’s league soccer game.

Bieniewicz was felled by one punch from Saad, witnesses testified, as the referee prepared to brandish a red card. Saad, an auto mechanic, had a previous yellow and was earning a second for verbal abuse.

The referee fell to the turf with a yellow in one hand and the red in the other, and later died from his injuries.

From Mike Householder of the Associated Press comes a recap of the testimony, including that of Saad’s teammate Dr. Jamal Saleh:

The punch, which Saleh said landed around the head and neck area, caused Bieniewicz to “fall back without any control of his body.”

Saleh said he rushed toward Bieniewicz, who was on his back grasping a yellow card in one hand and a red card in the other.

A skirmish erupted between players following the attack. Saleh said he quickly checked on Bieniewicz and the referee initially was not breathing but had a pulse.

Saleh said he performed CPR and told the unconscious Bieniewicz: “Wake up, buddy. You’re going to be OK.”

Bieniewicz, tragically, was not.

Witnesses also testified that Saad, 36, removed his shirt and immediately left the field. When another player followed Saad into the parking lot to get his license place number, he was reportedly photographed making an obscene gesture.

Prosecutors were denied in their attempts to include an on-field incident involving Saad back in 2005.

source:
http://www.hometownlife.com (Bill Bressler)

Saad was emotional in previous hearings — including the powerful image at right — and the whole incident should give anyone pause to reflect on how they act in amateur soccer matches, especially upon consideration of how often things happen that could turn out to inflict permanent damage on the opponent or official.

Without jumping to conclusions, it’s difficult to imagine that Saad’s punch was intended to end Bieniewicz’s life but that matters very little. Whether the intention should change the eventual consequences of his actions is another discussion altogether (perhaps one for the courts to decide).

Our thoughts continue to be with the Bieniewicz family and Michigan soccer community.

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.

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.