Family, friends of deceased soccer referee speak at vigil

TAYLORSVILLE, Utah — A soccer referee who died after he was attacked on the field was remembered Sunday as a man who lived for his family and his job.

Ricardo Portillo died Saturday night, one week after a 17-year-old player allegedly punched him in the head during a game.

During a vigil held outside the Portillo home, his family said they send their respects to the family of that player involved, but not to him.

“He was a father, he was a friend, he was a grandfather. He left a whole family. It’s not just us. It’s our whole family,” said Johana Portillo, one of Portillo’s three daughters.

Fighting back tears, she described her father as a man who lived for the game of soccer, which many members of the Portillo family grew up playing and watching.

Family members said Portillo had been injured in games before, even suffering a broken rib once. While they never expected the work to be so dangerous, they think the league, Liga Continental, should have.

“I want to say to the organizers of the leagues that it is not fair that someone has to wait until tragedy strikes for them to have a conscience,” Portillo said, “It happened to my father.”

Despite the family’s suffering, Portillo’s colleagues and friends, like soccer coach James Yapias, hope their loss can serve as a lesson for others.

“We need to talk to our kids about being non-violent,” Yapias said. “Talk to them about sportsmanship. Talk to them about respecting the referees. Talk to them about what is competition and what is violence.”

The Portillos said a greater police presence at games could help prevent incidents like this in the future.

The Liga Continental has hired Unified Police to attend weekend games until further notice.

The 17-year-old charged with assaulting Portillo may face additional legal charges following Portillo’s death.

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