The West Island soccer community in Montreal is rattled following a violent event on a soccer field in Dollard-des-Ormeaux over the weekend.
A video captured the moment an adult descends from the stands and appears to assault a teenage referee before other spectators step in.
It happened during a U-14 soccer game.
“My reaction? Completely shocked,” said Robert D’Alesio, Soccer Lac St-Louis’ director of referees.
The alleged assault took place in Dollard-des-Ormeaux, after the opposing team scored a goal.
The incident ended when other spectators jumped in, tackled the man and stopped him.
“We talk about incidents of verbal abuse of referees but to see someone come down from the stands and hit a referee is not something that we ever expect, especially because we’re at the beginning of the season,” D’Alesio explained.
The referee won’t speak publicly but D’Alesio says he is doing well and recovering from the experience.
The incident has sent shockwaves through the soccer community, especially for the teams in the field.
“We absolutely don’t want this to happen again and it’s not the type of thing we want to see on the field,” said William Lawson with the Celtix Haut-Richelieu U-14 soccer team.
Lawson says following the incident, spectators were asked to leave the stands and the game resumed without referees, in order to give the players closure.
The Celtix Haut-Richelieu director-general also condemns the incident.
“It’s sad to notice that to this day, some people still do not understand the challenges of a sports league, whose primary reason of being is to develop young adults, so that they grow up in shape and with work ethic in a healthy environment,” said Stéphane Rey.
“A 17 year-old referee who is only doing his job and becomes a victim of someone who is not capable of managing their emotions is unacceptable.”
Meanwhile, Soccer Quebec has opened an investigation into the matter, adding that they will work with the team so that the spectator is sanctioned.
“We need to send a strong message to say there is zero tolerance about violence in the soccer field,” said Mathieu Chamberland.
The Lac Saint-Louis soccer association says the referee is considering filing a police report.
Meanwhile, D’Alesio hopes that what he calls an isolated incident doesn’t discourage other young people from becoming referees, at a time where there is already a shortage.