Soccer Referee Dies After Player's Punch
John Bieniewicz never saw the punch coming, say witnesses
By Kate Seamons, Newser Staff
Posted Jul 1, 2014 4:08 PM CDT
An undated photo provided by the Livonia Police Department is of Baseel Abdul-Amir Saad.   (AP Photo/Livonia Police Department)

(Newser) – Amid World Cup fever, a soccer-related tragedy out of Michigan, where a referee died this morning after being punched by a player on Sunday. The Detroit Free Press reports that responding authorities found John Bieniewicz, 44, on the ground and unconscious. Witnesses say Bieniewicz stopped the adult soccer game in Livonia in order to eject Bassel Abdul-Amir Saad, who had gotten his second violation. "The ref did nothing to provoke this attack," says one player. Another tells WDIV that Bieniewicz never saw the punch coming: "He went into his pockets to pull out his red card, he had his head down, and as he came up the guy punched him, hit him kind of in the neck and chin area and then the jaw."

Saad allegedly fled the scene, but was yesterday arraigned on a felony charge of assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder; in light of Bieniewicz's death, a rep for the county prosecutor says "the charges will be reviewed and amended when appropriate confirmations are made." A longtime friend describes the married father of two as a true lover of the sport; his qualifications allowed him to referee professional, collegiate, high school, and rec league soccer. He often worked up to three games on a weekend day, and was what the AP describes as a "well-respected" ref for two decades. A GoFundMe account has been set up to support his boys.

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Showing 3 of 45 comments
Jul 2, 2014 1:05 AM CDT
Why does the article offer us a picture of the murderer rather than the man we ought to be taking a moment to remember?
Jul 1, 2014 11:01 PM CDT
Why is violence always their way of resolving problems, of any kind?
Jul 1, 2014 10:14 PM CDT
This happened in soccer but could happen in baseball or another sport. What happens is players don't learn early on not to yell at refs, to treat them with respect even if they make a mistake. Coaches and parents yell and blame referees and kids pick up on it. Then when older act out too. This player hit the guy when not looking is now a murderer and will go to prison. I played a game last year and some guy went after the linesman. The police showed up but he did not press charges. Press charges not because you want to but to protect the next ref that the guy could hurt.