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Kamrani: Assault on Utah soccer referee is inexcusable

Published May 4, 2013 5:37 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Ricardo Portillo remains in critical condition, while doctors try to reduce the swelling on his brain.

For what? A yellow card?

The 46-year-old referee was allegedly assaulted, sucker-punched in the head by a 17-year-old player who didn't agree with a foul call on a soccer field in Taylorsville on April 27.

Now, a man who enjoys soccer enough to subject himself to such ridicule on a recreational level has been left fighting a fight that he may lose while his family hopes and waits and prays that something will good come of this unfair situation.

If one thing unfortunately emerges from this terrifying ordeal, it's time to blow the whistle on this devolving, violent culture within sports.

Is a call, whether it's bad, good, warranted or unwarranted, worthy of physical harm?

Portillo's daughter, Johana Portillo, addressed the media Thursday afternoon at the Intermountain Medical Center in Murray and said this isn't the first time her father has been injured while officiating a match. She said players broke her father's ribs five years ago, and, three years prior to that, broke his leg.

What?

"We're there to have fun," Johana Portillo told reporters, "not kill each other."

All it takes is one act to change a series of lives forever and now Ricardo Portillo's passion, his love for soccer, "the beautiful game" known around the world, has him on the edge.

It's unacceptable. Yes, the case will be reviewed by the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office, but there needs to be an examination of why this increasing subculture of wanting to harm officials has become such a standard in the United States and worldwide.

Sports are our getaway from the real world.

They're the reason our smartphones don't have as much battery life as they should. They're the reason adults wear jerseys. If you're lucky enough to be in attendance at a game or play in one, relish the moment.

Most of you know that drill. A select few don't.

Taking that drastic of a measure, in a friendly recreational soccer environment on an official who is there for the players to ensure the game be played fairly and with structure is reprehensible.

Let's pray Ricardo Portillo pulls through.

Let's pray he one day gets back to officiating shape and can once again walk to the center of the pitch, drop a ball and blow his whistle, because violence should never have the last word.

ckamrani@sltrib.com

Twitter: @chriskamrani