June 2, 2014 6:47 pm

Winnipeg police arrest soccer player for assault on referee

WINNIPEG – A 29-year-old man has been arrested for an assault during a soccer game that left a referee unconscious, police say.

He faces a charge of assault causing bodily harm.

“You would think by this point they would realize they won’t make the World Cup,” said Const. Eric Hofley, adding it’s unfortunate incidents like this happen.

The referee was attacked during a game between Galatasary United and Winnipeg Croatia at the Vince Leah Recreation Centre on Salter Street just after 9 p.m. Thursday.

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The referee, who is 56, issued a yellow card to a Croatia player, the player argued and, when the referee reached for another card, the player attacked, a witness told Global News.

“As the ref was reaching in his pocket, (the player) threw a punch to his lower jaw. The ref was knocked out cold. He then delivered two more kicks, one in the stomach and one in the back,” Galatasary United player Xxavier Barra said.

The Manitoba Soccer Association made its first public comment on the incident Monday, in an email sent to media.

“This is a very unfortunate incident, one that we don’t want to see in our sport and has no place in any sport at any level,”  said Héctor Vergara, MSA executive director. “The MSA does not tolerate the abuse, assault or violence against referees and has in place a discipline system and process that will be followed in dealing with this matter.  The discipline committee has a number of options available to it with regards to how to deal with the matter and will proceed with a hearing as soon as possible.”

The association has a respect in sport program and code of conduct policy, Vergara said.

“The MSA and Manitoba Soccer Referees Association (MSRA) are supporting the referee who is recovering from the injuries by attending to whatever needs he may have in overcoming the incident,” he said.

The referee who was assaulted has been a soccer official for at least decade, sources said.

“It’s a very scary situation,” said Gilles Gareau, another soccer referee. “It can happen to anybody.”

Gareau has been a referee for more than a decade in Winnipeg.

Physical attacks on officials are rare, but verbal abuse is far more common, he said.

“They yell at you,” said Gareau. “Yell obscenities at you and you try to calm them down as best you can.”

RELATED: Winnipeg soccer ref beaten unconscious during game

© Shaw Media, 2014

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