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. (Read more soccer stories.)