The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

May 6, 2013

Family of Utah soccer referee who died holds vigil

(Continued)

The unaffiliated soccer league, Liga Continental de Futbol, updated its Facebook posting Sunday with a tribute to Portillo including a number of photographs of him refereeing and playing soccer. It also set up a bank account to accept donations for his family.

Mario Vazquez, the league president who also was a friend and worked with Portillo, said Sunday everyone in the league had the greatest respect for him. He had a great sense of humor and loved refereeing, he said. The league plans to honor him with a tribute at next Saturday's games.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Portillo family during this difficult time. Ricardo will always be with us," he said.

Johana Portillo said she hopes her father's death leads to more security at sporting events and better self-control from players. She said her father had been attacked by players twice before in his eight years refereeing soccer matches — even having his ribs and legs broken.

Pedro Lopez, his brother-in-law and a fellow soccer referee, called on soccer players worldwide to respect referees and remember it's a sport meant to relieve stress — not cause pain.

"Remember that we are human beings, and we make mistakes," Lopez said in Spanish. "Don't take justice into your own hands."

The former professional soccer player said he plans to continue working as a referee. He said leaving it behind would be abandoning his passion. He said he'll do so remembering Ricardo Portillo.

Ricardo Portillo's daughters had begged him to stop refereeing in a soccer league because of the growing risk of violence from angry players. But, like Lopez, Portillo told his daughters he couldn't quit.

"It was his passion," she said. "We could not tell him no."

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