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Utah soccer league hires off-duty police officers to monitor games after ref is assaulted

Referee PunchedUtah.jpg

May 2, 2013: Johana Portillo, left, and her sister Ana Portillo, daughters of Riccardo Portillo hold hands during a news conference at Intermountain Medical Center, in Murray, Utah.AP

The president of a soccer league where a Utah referee was allegedly punched by a teen player that resulted in a coma says the league will be hiring security for its games.

Mario Vasquez said La Liga Continental de Futbol will continue holding weekend games for children and teens at a middle-school field in suburban Salt Lake City. But he says off-duty police officers will watch over things.

Vasquez also said the team the 17-year-old, who allegedly punched the ref, played on has been kicked out of the league. The game had been the team’s first in the league.

“He’s fighting for his life and we’re fighting with him too.”

- Johana Portillo

Meanwhile, doctors say 46-year-old Riccardo Portillo remains in a coma as they try to control swelling his brain and that his recovery is uncertain.

Police say the teen who punched Portillo in the head has been booked into juvenile detention on suspicion of aggravated assault.

A police report said the suspect was given a yellow card by Portillo after pushing an opposing team member, FOX 13 reported. The suspect argued with Portillo and then punched him in the face, a witness said.
  
The school district where the league plays has also issued a formal warning to Vasquez following the violent assault.

The Granite School District’s letter says the league is in danger of having its rental agreement revoked citing the assault and previous complaints that the league didn’t clean up trash and violated the ban on drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes.

Vasquez says the league was created in 2009 to provide a family-friendly place where the Hispanic community could play soccer, and the league has never seen anything this violent before.

Portillo’s oldest daughter said this isn’t the first time a soccer player has assaulted her father. Johana Portillo says the referee has had ribs and legs broken by players angry with his calls .

“He’s fighting for his life and we’re fighting with him too,” Johana Portillo told FOX 13. “He’s really stable right now and a few nights ago he wasn’t.”

Vasquez said the league will hold fundraisers to help Portillo’s family.

Click for more from Fox13Now.com.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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