Lopez said players need to respect referees and remember it’s a sport meant to relieve stress — not cause pain.
“Remember that we are human beings, and we make mistakes,” Lopez said in Spanish. “Don’t take justice into your own hands.”
The former professional soccer player said he plans to continue working as a referee. He said leaving it behind would be abandoning his passion. He said he’ll do so remembering Ricardo Portillo.
Ricardo Portillo’s daughters had begged him to stop refereeing in a soccer league because of the growing risk of violence from angry players. But, like Lopez, Portillo told his daughters he couldn’t quit.
“It was his passion,” she said. “We could not tell him no.”
Now his three daughters are faced with planning his funeral after he succumbed to injuries late Saturday that had put him in a coma for a week since teenager goalie punched him in the head.
Accounts from a police report, Portillo’s daughter and others offer further detail what occurred.
The teenager was playing goalie during a game at Eisenhower Junior High School in Taylorsville when Portillo issued him a yellow card for pushing an opposing forward trying to score. In soccer, a yellow card is given as a warning to a player for an egregious violation of the rules. Two yellow cards lead to a red card and expulsion from the game.
The teenager, quite a bit heavier than Portillo, began arguing with the referee, then punched him in the face. Portillo seemed fine at first, then asked to be held because he felt dizzy. He sat down and started vomiting blood, triggering his friend to call an ambulance.
When police arrived around noon, the teenager was gone and Portillo was laying on the ground in the fetal position. Through translators, Portillo told emergency workers that his face and back hurt and he felt nauseous. He had no visible injuries and remained conscious. He was considered to be in fair condition when they took him to the Intermountain Medical Center.
But when Portillo arrived to the hospital, he slipped into a coma with swelling in his brain. Johana Portillo called detectives to let them know his condition had worsened.
That’s when detectives intensified their search for the goalie. By Saturday evening, the teenager’s father agreed to bring him down to speak with police.
Johana Portillo said she last spoke to him that night before he fell into a coma. She grabbed his hand and told him he was going to be all right. He held her hand tightly and said, “no.” Within seconds, doctors ushered her out of the room and he lost consciousness.
She said Sunday night, with tears streaming down her face, that her father will always be in her heart.
“It’s going to be very difficult,” she said. “But I know he’s going to help us from heaven.”