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Utah soccer referee dies after attack by teenage player

Man under arrest
Man under arrest

(Reuters) - A Utah soccer referee who suffered head injuries when he was punched in the face by a teenage player has died, authorities said.

The 17-year-old player struck the referee, Ricardo Portillo, in the head on April 27 after Portillo penalized the teenager during a soccer game in a Salt Lake City suburb, according to the Unified Police of Greater Salt Lake.

Portillo, 46, died late on Saturday at an area hospital, the police said in a statement posted on the department's website.

The player, whose name was withheld because he is a juvenile, was upset because Portillo had issued him a yellow card, police said. A yellow card is a caution for actions that range from a foul to unsportsmanlike conduct.

Portillo, of Salt Lake City, was taken by ambulance to a hospital to be treated for what was initially believed to be minor injuries. It was later determined that Portillo had suffered more substantial head trauma.

He lapsed into a coma and remained in critical condition at Intermountain Medical Center in a Salt Lake City suburb until he died at about 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, police said.

The teenager, also of Salt Lake City, was arrested two days after the incident and booked on a charge of aggravated assault, police said. He is being held at a juvenile detention center.

He faces formal charges this week, when additional charges will be weighed in connection with the referee's death, police said.

Portillo's daughter, Johana Portillo, told a news conference on Thursday that the player "just came out of nowhere" and punched her father.

"I know if he spends time in jail, like forever, it's not enough," she said. "It's not going to bring my daddy back."

Officials with the American Youth Soccer Organization, the nation's largest soccer association for players aged 4 to 18, said they did not know of another such incident in the history of youth soccer in the United States.

Portillo was refereeing a match put on by a league called La Liga Continental, which is not affiliated with the American Youth Soccer Organization.

(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst in New York; Editing by Eric Beech)

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