Utah soccer league hiring security after ref hit

Utah soccer league hiring security after ref hit

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah soccer league that saw one of its referees punched by a teen player and sent into a coma plans to play on — but with security present at games and without the player’s team, its president said Friday.

Mario Vasquez, president of La Liga Continental de Futbol, said he’ll hire off-duty police officers to watch over games, which will resume this weekend at a middle school in a Salt Lake City suburb. The 17-year-old’s team has been expelled from the league.

The referee, Ricardo Portillo, 46, remains in a coma with his family praying for a miracle. The teenager, whose name is being withheld because he is a minor, is in juvenile detention on suspicion of aggravated assault. The charges could be amplified if Portillo dies.

Portillo’s oldest daughter said Thursday her father had been attacked before while refereeing — even having his ribs and leg broken. But Vasquez said those incidents didn’t happen in his league.

“We’ve never seen something like that before,” Vasquez said. “We are still in shock. We can’t believe it happened.”

The unaffiliated Hispanic soccer league will have to be on its best behavior moving forward or risk losing the field it plays on each Saturday. The school district that has rented it two soccer fields at Eisenhower Junior High School for the past three years has sent the league a formal warning.

The letter cites Saturday’s assault and previous complaints that the league didn’t clean up trash and violated the ban on drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes. Teachers at the school say they recently found water bottles, beer cans, cigarette butts and a dirty diaper on the field following the games.

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