The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

May 6, 2013

Family of Utah soccer referee who died holds vigil

(Continued)

Now his three daughters are faced with planning his funeral after he succumbed to injuries late Saturday that had put him in a coma for a week since teenager goalie punched him in the head.

James Yapias, a longtime friend of Ricardo Portillo and youth soccer coach, said coaches and parents need to do a better job teaching children about sportsmanship and being non-violent. He also called for more police presence at games. Portillo's death is a reminder that life can change in a second.

"We all love this sport," Yapias said. "But we all need to respect the rules."

Accounts from a police report, Portillo's daughter and others offer further detail what occurred.

The teenager was playing goalie during a game at Eisenhower Junior High School in Taylorsville when Portillo issued him a yellow card for pushing an opposing forward trying to score. In soccer, a yellow card is given as a warning to a player for an egregious violation of the rules. Two yellow cards lead to a red card and expulsion from the game.

The teenager, quite a bit heavier than Portillo, began arguing with the referee, then punched him in the face. Portillo seemed fine at first, then asked to be held because he felt dizzy. He sat down and started vomiting blood, triggering his friend to call an ambulance.

When police arrived around noon, the teenager was gone and Portillo was laying on the ground in the fetal position. Through translators, Portillo told emergency workers that his face and back hurt and he felt nauseous. He had no visible injuries and remained conscious. He was considered to be in fair condition when they took him to the Intermountain Medical Center.

But when Portillo arrived to the hospital, he slipped into a coma with swelling in his brain. Johana Portillo called detectives to let them know his condition had worsened.

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