Soccer coach calls for sportsmanship after ref is hospitalized

By Cristina Rendon

Published 05/03 2013 10:07PM

Updated 05/05 2013 03:25PM

SALT LAKE CITY, (ABC 4 News) – Soccer referee Ricardo Portillo is fighting to live nearly one week after a player took a swing at him for pulling a yellow card, prompting the player’s coach to call for change.

Volunteer Coach James Yapias escorted the 17-year-old player off the field and told him to cool down.

Yapias said as a volunteer coach, it was the first time the player was on his team. He said violence has no place in any game.

“I was in complete disbelief,” Yapias said. “It happened so quick and none of us could understand why.”

Yapias said he rushed over to help his friend. He and Portillo have been in soccer leagues together for about a decade.

Yapias thought Portillo had a severe concussion, but no one ever thought he would slip into a coma.

Johana Portillo, Ricardo’s oldest daughter, believes her father is improving. Each day she gets more optimistic about his recovery.

“I want to be surprised by him and that he’s going to be awake and waiting for me,” she said.

Yapias called Portillo’s injury tragic.

“We go out and think things are going to be okay, but you just never know,” he said.

He said adults and players can get out of hand during games, which is why he called on parents to educate their children about sportsmanship. He said violence has no place on the field.

“It has to stop on the field,” he added.

Johana said her father has been hurt at games in the past by people upset with his referee calls. She desperately wants her father to pull through.

The 17-year-old player and the entire team have been banned from Futbol Continental for the rest of the season.

The Salt Lake District Attorney’s Office is still considering whether or not the teen will be tried as an adult.

Johana said any support is welcome to help her family. Donations are being accepted at any Chase Bank in the name of Ricardo Portillo.

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