US & Canada

US soccer referee Ricardo Portillo dies after punch

A mourner light candles at a makeshift memorial for Ricardo Portillo in Salt Lake City, Utah, on 5 May 2013
Image caption After the alleged assault, Ricardo Portillo sat down and began vomiting blood

A memorial has been held for a soccer referee who died after he was punched during a game in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Ricardo Portillo, 46, passed away on Saturday after a week spent in a coma following the alleged assault.

Police say a 17-year-old player in a recreational soccer league struck Portillo, 46, after he issued him with a yellow card for a foul.

The teenager, who is in juvenile detention on suspicion of aggravated assault, may now face new charges.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill says he will decide within a day or two what charges to file.

A post-mortem examination is pending and no cause of death has been released.

Two previous attacks

Some 100 family and friends held a candlelight vigil on Sunday night on the front lawn of Portillo's Salt Lake City home.

According to a police report, the incident happened during a game at a high school in the Salt Lake City suburbs.

The teenager was playing goalkeeper when Portillo showed him a yellow card for shoving an opposing forward who was attempting to score.

After arguing with the referee, the teenager allegedly punched him in the face. Portillo sat down and began vomiting blood.

He was taken to hospital and slipped into a coma with swelling on his brain.

The teenager's name has been withheld because he is a minor.

The dead man's eldest daughter, Johana Portillo, 26, said it was not the first time her father had been assaulted during his eight years as a referee.

He had suffered broken ribs and legs during two previous attacks as a result of officiating at games, she said.

Pedro Lopez, the dead man's brother-in-law and a fellow soccer referee, said recreational soccer leagues had become increasingly unruly.

"The yells and insults from the sideline from the parents make kids more violent," said Mr Lopez in Spanish.