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Soccer team banned, extra security promised after ref attacked

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Posted at 8:43 PM, May 03, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-04 00:22:41-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- The soccer team that a teenage boy played for, when he allegedly attacked a referee who gave him a yellow card on the field, has been banned from the league.

Saturday's game that sent Ricardo Portillo to the hospital, was that team's last, coach James Yapias told FOX 13 on Friday. He was at Intermountain Medical Center where he was visiting Portillo and his family.

Portillo remained hospitalized in extremely critical condition. He remained in a coma, but his daughter said she had hope he would be alright.

"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."

A police report obtained by FOX 13 on Friday under a public records request said Portillo had been refereeing a soccer game last weekend when he gave a 17-year-old goalie a yellow card for fighting with a player from the opposing team.

"The suspect had pushed an opposing team member," the Unified Police Department report said, recounting a witness statement. "He stated that the suspect who was playing goalie at the time had begun to argue with Ricardo and then punched him once in the face."

Yapias told FOX 13 he was mid-field when he saw the yellow card being pulled.

"I saw a fist going up," he said. "At that moment, we all ran to the field to make sure we separate the player. His father was there and they removed the player from the field."

Yapias said he could tell that Portillo was hurt, and he called for an ambulance.

"We called the paramedics," he said. "It looked like he had a concussion. He was on his knees."

The police report said Portillo was spitting up blood. He was transported to Intermountain Medical Center in fair condition. Under evaluation, his injuries -- and condition -- were determined to be far worse than expected.

Portillo is now in a coma, his doctors said Thursday.

This was the team's first game in the Liga Continental de Utah, which serves members of Utah's Latino community. After Saturday's attack, the entire team has been kicked out for the rest of the season.

"All of us are here for our kids and so it is a sad moment," Yapias said, choking back tears.

Liga Continental Director Mario Vazquez is promising extra security at this weekend's games, as well as fundraisers to help Portillo's family. He said Portillo was a longtime referee for them, and a friend.

"We're going to talk more with coaches and parents in making them aware of what's going on and saying, 'it's a game. It's a kid's game.'"

The Granite School District sent Liga Continental a letter warning them they risked losing their fields to play on after the assault and other problems stemming from last week's game at Eisenhower Jr. High in Taylorsville.

"We went out on Monday with our students for our physical education classes and there were over 50 water bottles, dozen sports drinks, a six pack of beer cans, lots of cigarette butts and the worst was a used baby diaper," the letter, obtained by FOX 13 on Friday, said. "Are you kidding us?"

Vazquez said he had not yet seen the letter.

The teenage boy remained in a juvenile detention facility on suspicion of aggravated assault.