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Utah soccer league to hire security

Photo: Rick Bowmer/AP

Johana Portillo (left) and sister Ana Portillo, daughters of Riccardo Portillo, hold hands during a news conference Thursday.

The Utah soccer league that saw one of its referees punched by a teen player and sent into a coma will continue holding games but with security present, its president said Friday.

Mario Vasquez said he's still in shock about what happened last Saturday to his friend Ricardo Portillo, 46.

He said La Liga Continental de Futbol will continue playing games for children ages 4 to 17 each Saturday at a middle-school field in a Salt Lake City suburb. But he said off-duty police officers watching over things.

Vasquez said the league was created in 2009 to create a family-friendly place where the Hispanic community could come together, have fun and play soccer.

Police say a 17-year-old player in the league punched Portillo after the man called a foul on him and issued him a yellow card. The teen has been booked into juvenile detention on suspicion of aggravated assault. Those charges could be amplified if Portillo dies.

The teen's name is being withheld because he's a minor.

Portillo is in a coma at the Intermountain Medical Center in the Salt Lake City suburb of Murray. He has swelling in his brain and remains in critical condition, Dr. Shawn Smith said at a news conference Thursday.

Portillo's oldest daughter, 26-year-old Johana Portillo, said Thursday other players have attacked her father before, even breaking his ribs and one of his legs.

But Vasquez said those incidents didn't happen in his league, and that the league never seen anything this violent before.

Johanna Portillo wasn't at the Saturday game in the Salt Lake City suburb of Taylorsville, but she said she's been told by witnesses and detectives that the player hit her father in the side of the head after Portillo issued the yellow card.

"When he was writing down his notes, he just came out of nowhere and punched him,'' she said.

His friends who were there told her Ricardo Portillo seemed fine at first, but then asked to be held because he felt dizzy. They sat him down and he started vomiting blood, triggering his friend to call an ambulance.

Johanna Portillo said her father's passion is soccer, and he's been a referee in the recreational league for eight years. Five years ago, a player upset with a call broke his ribs. A few years before that, a player broke his leg, she said. Other referees have been hurt, too.

His daughters begged him to stop refereeing - his second job - but he continued because he loved soccer.

"It was his passion,'' she said. "We could not tell him no.''

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