Ricardo Portillo's daughters had begged him to stop refereeing in a Hispanic football league because of the growing risk of violence from angry players.
Now they're faced with planning his funeral after he succumbed to injuries late on Saturday that had put him in a coma for a week since a 17-year-old goalkeeper punched him in the head.
Authorities say the teen punched Portillo after the youth was called for a foul and issued a yellow card.
"It was his passion": the daughters of Riccardo Portillo hold hands during a news conference. Photo: AP
"The suspect was close to Portillo and punched him once in the face as a result of the call," Unified police spokesman Justin Hoyal in a press release.
The suspect has been booked into juvenile detention on suspicion of aggravated assault. Hoyal said authorities will consider additional charges since the 46-year-old Salt Lake City man has died.
Hoyal said an autopsy is planned. No cause of death was released.
The brother-in-law of Ricardo Portillo points to him in a picture. Photo: AP
Portillo suffered swelling in his brain and had been listed in critical condition, Dr Shawn Smith said on Thursday at the Intermountain Medical Centre in the Salt Lake City suburb of Murray.
Accounts from a police report, Portillo's daughter Johana and others offer further detail what occurred.
The teenager was playing goalkeeper during a game at Eisenhower Junior High School in Taylorsville when Portillo issued him a yellow card for pushing an opposing forward trying to score.
The teenager began arguing with the referee, then punched him in the face. Portillo seemed fine at first, then asked to be held because he felt dizzy. He sat down and started vomiting blood, triggering his friend to call an ambulance.
Portillo told emergency workers that his face and back hurt and he felt nauseous. He had no visible injuries and remained conscious. He was considered to be in fair condition when they took him to the Intermountain Medical Centre.
But when Portillo arrived to the hospital, he slipped into a coma with swelling in his brain.
Portillo's family said he had been attacked before, and Johanna Portillo said she had pleaded with their father to stop refereeing because of the risk from angry players, but he continued because he loved soccer.
"It was his passion," she said. "We could not tell him no."