Soccer referee dies after being sucker-punched at game

By Kyle Johnson,

A soccer referee in Michigan died on Tuesday, days after being punched in the head by a player who was unhappy with a call.

Dearborn resident Baseel Abdul-Amir Saad threw the punch on Sunday when referee John Bieniewicz signaled for the 36-year-old's ejection, The Associated Press reports. Bieniewicz was rushed to the Detroit Receiving Hospital in critical condition.

Saad is currently being charged with assault with intent to do great bodily harm, but prosecutors said they might tack more on later.

"I speak for all his friends when I say we are devastated. Crushed. Just a senseless way for a great guy to go out," the referee's friend, Jim Acho, said. "He deserved better."

Bieniewicz, who was a dialysis technician, had been a referee for nearly 20 years and he was thought to be well-liked.

After throwing the punch, Saad ran away from the scene by hitching a ride with a friend, witness Josephy Consenza, told My Fox Detroit.

National Association of Sports Officials founder and president Barry Mano said it isn't uncommon for referees to be assaulted. Last April, a Utah teen punched a ref after he was unhappy with a foul call. The ref, Ricardo Portillo, went into a coma and later passed away.

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