Soccer ref dies after being punched at suburban Detroit match

Soccer ref dies: Police said a man punched Bieniewicz in the head after the referee indicated he planned to eject the man from the game. 

Livonia Police Department/AP
\Baseel Abdul-Amir Saad is a Detroit-area soccer player who police say critically injured a referee by punching him during a match June 29, has surrendered to face a felony assault charge.

A man who was punched in the head over the weekend while refereeing an adult-league soccer match in suburban Detroit died Tuesday, authorities and a longtime friend of the referee said.

John Bieniewicz, who was attacked Sunday at a park, died at Detroit Receiving Hospital, said hospital spokesman Alton Gunn, Livonia police and the man's longtime friend, Jim Acho.

Police said a 36-year-old man punched Bieniewicz in the head after the referee indicated he planned to eject the man from the game. Baseel Abdul-Amir Saad was arraigned Monday on a charge of assault with intent to do great bodily harm. The prosecutor's office said the charges would be reviewed and possibly amended when it had the necessary documentation.

Bieniewicz, 44, was a dialysis technician who lived in a Detroit suburb of Westland with his wife and two sons, said Acho.

Bieniewicz was doing what he loved on Sunday when he was attacked, Acho said.

Saad was not at Mies Park when police arrived, but surrendered Monday, Goralski said. At Saad's arraignment, bond was set at $500,000 and a probable-cause hearing was set for July 10.

Saad's lawyer, Brian Berry, said his client was cooperating with police and was not guilty of the charge.

Violence is not unheard of in soccer and other sports.

Barry Mano — the president and founder of National Association of Sports Officials, which has 21,000 dues-paying members in sports ranging from football and soccer to rodeo and water polo — said his group spends 20 percent of its time on assault and liability-related issues, up from around 3 percent 20 years ago.

In April 2013, a 17-year-old player punched referee Ricardo Portillo after being called for a foul during a soccer game in Utah, near Salt Lake City. Portillo, a father of three, died after a week in a coma. The teen pleaded guilty to a homicide charge.

In Brazil last year, a 20-year-old referee was killed, dismembered and decapitated by spectators after he stabbed a player to death during an amateur soccer match. And a volunteer linesman was beaten to death following a 2012 youth amateur match outside Amsterdam. Six teenage players and the father of one of the boys were convicted of manslaughter.

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