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Family, Friends Honor Fallen Soccer Referee

A funeral was held last night for the Ricardo Portillo, the 46-year-old soccer referee who died after allegedly being punched in the head by a 17-year-old goalie. Friends and family attended the service dressed in white t-shirts and soccer jerseys to honor Portillo. 

Hundreds trickled into the sanctuary at Our Lady of Guadalupe hoping to pay their respects to Ricardo Portillo. Some paced the halls silently. Some kneeled to pray. Others spoke softly in Spanish as music played.

The service, spoken in Spanish focused on Portillo’s involvement in the community and his kindness. The priest reminded mourners that Portillo’s mission is complete but they must carry on his legacy before completing their missions as well.

Following the service, a group carried Portillo’s casket out the front door of the church to a white Hearst.

Portillo’s friends describe him as a reliable, funny man with a passion for soccer. Mario Vazquez had known Portillo for 10 years.

“I mean besides the field, besides the soccer, besides the game, [I'd say] can you help us, can you volunteer to do something? Yeah! Why not. Tell me what time and I’ll be there. He was there," Vazquez said. "He kept his word.”

During a soccer game last month witnesses say Portillo was citing a teenaged soccer player with a yellow card warning for rough play, when the young man struck him.  Portillo was taken to the hospital where he lapsed into a coma and later died. Tony Yapias is a friend of Portillo’s family. He says the incident struck a nerve in the sports community.

“As parents, we have to teach our kids how to respect the call," Yapias says. "If the referee makes the call, respect that. Walk away and you’ll be a better person from that.”

On Wednesday, the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s office charged the seventeen year old male who allegedly struck Portillo with a third degree felony. If he is tried as an adult, a conviction could carry a prison sentence of up to five years. Portillo’s remains will be returned to his hometown of Guadalajara, Mexico.

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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