Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Another youth soccer player commits homicide on a referee

Back in December of 2012, Richard Nieuwenhuizen was a volunteer linesman for his son's match in the Netherlands when he was beaten to death by a group of 16 year old thugs at the conclusion of the match.

I gave my opinion here in how these criminals should be treated.

For Richard, there were moments of silence, tears, armbands, and platitudes from FIFA on respect.

It has now happened again, where a U-18 thug from Utah has caused the death of Utah soccer referee Ricardo Portillo by reportedly punching him in the head and neck area. One account of the incident and detail about the Mr. Portillo can be found here, courtesy of CBS. Take a look at the video, it is well worth it.

My question here is not what should happen to this animal who (in the daughter's account) sucker punched Portillo. My question is ... to what limit should the referee go to defend themselves?

Assuming the referee was able to see the strike coming, can they strike first? Should they strike first if they feel they are in imminent mortal danger?

Should it make a difference (as in the 2 cases here) they are youth players? Is there any less danger here?

Here is where folks in the international and professional levels are spoiled, as generally speaking, everyone know they have to get up for "work" the next morning, even if that work is playing soccer. That alone, keeps these surreal things from happening, as well as strong measures from the respective leagues in what would happen should these players batter a referee.

Amateur leagues, youth inclusive, are another matter completely, and are akin to the wild wild west at times. I have been lucky in my career and only hit or spit on a few times by players. While I have been lucky to have others, and generally sympathetic players, come to my aide, if that was not the case, what do you do?

The title "Could This Happen to You?", from the other day was no accident. It is something visceral we as referees need to prepare for.

This could happen to you ... How are you preparing ... and what would you do?

Please also see Paul Levys' piece, In memoriam: Ricardo Portillo, who gives a far more eloquent analysis. I'll be honest, I am just livid and so disheartened at the loss of life over a youth soccer game. While I am clearly not espousing violence of any kind, I do believe that this scenario is one referees must consider.

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