I have no idea what’s been going on in the world of sports recently, but it is getting out of hand. In less than a year, there have been three referee deaths in soccer, all in different parts of the world.
In December 2012, a volunteer linesman referee was beaten to death during an amateur soccer match in the Netherlands. The ref was 41 years old, while his assailants were two 15-year olds and a 16 year old; all players on the same team.
The linesman was officiating a match that his son was playing.
On April 27th, 2013, in Salt Lake city, Ricardo Portillo was assaulted while he was serving as the center ref of a match in a Hispanic soccer league. Portillo, who was 46, was punched in the face by a 17 year old player after Portillo gave the player a yellow card.
Portillo died later because of the internal injuries from being punched.
Now the craziest incident. This happened during the July 6-7th weekend. The center ref was 20yr-old Jordan Silva. He was officiating a match in Brazil when he showed 30yr-old player Josenir Abreu a red card. Abreu didn’t like it, and got in the ref’s face.
This is where it gets crazy.
Silva, the referee, pulled out a knife and stabbed the player, Abreu, which ended up killing him. The player’s family and fans captured the referee, tied him up, and when they heard that Abreu died, they tortured the ref and dismembered his body.
I’m going to need everyone to calm down.
This on-the-field violence, especially against refs, should not be tolerated. Players need to understand that without referees, they wouldn’t have a game to play. Referees instill rules. Referees instill fairness. When there is violence directed at the referee, no one wins.
Who knows why that situation in Brazil escalated so quickly. Why was the ref carrying a knife in the first place? Was he attacked before, was he given a reason to fear for his life and strike?
I’m not condoning his action. I hope no one ever has to make a decision to take someone’s life for fear of losing their own. I’m trying to figure out why the ref felt that he needed to carry one.
How can we shift the view of referees from “necessary evils” to “champions of the game”?
One group is trying. In memoriam of the referee in Salt Lake City, a group created the site, Love the Refs. The site is meant to show the world that “passion does not equal aggression.”
Being a fierce competitor does not mean that you must also wield your anger out on anyone or anything on the field. That is not how things work.
I think that sports organizations need to make an even stricter stand when it comes to violence against referees. Let players who show aggression be automatically suspended for 2-3 games. If they act on their aggression, ban from the league for that season. After that, any other infraction they are banned from the league and leagues around the area/region for life.
Or, every time an act of aggression towards the referee happens, end the game. No one wins.
Or, provide the referees with security.
In any case, the worse thing we can do, is nothing. Love the game, love your referees.