Skip to content

Tragedy in Michigan: Referee dies after being punched by player

Jul 2, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

john-bieniewicz AP

Just one day after The Guardian ran a comprehensive piece on the vibrant adult soccer scene in Detroit, there’s a tragic story coming out of the Michigan city’s suburbs.

Veteran referee John Bieniewicz has died as a result of injuries suffered from a punch to the head from a player during an over-30 men’s game on Sunday.

The 20-year referee was in the process of ejecting player Baseel Abdul-Amir Saad from a game when the player struck him in the head. Saad was “arraigned Monday on a charge of assault with intent to do great bodily harm.”

And so a men’s league game has led to the death of a father, husband and respected official.

From the Associated Press:

Bieniewicz, 44, was a dialysis technician at Mott Children’s Hospital who lived in the Detroit suburb of Westland with his wife and two sons, said Acho, who was a classmate of Bieniewicz’s at Catholic Central High School.

“I speak for all his friends when I say we are devastated. Crushed. Just a senseless way for a great guy to go out,” Acho said. “He deserved better.”

The incident, along with a similar death in Utah last year when a referee was killed by a teenage player, is raising concern about the safety of amateur sports.

“Never in my life did I think it would happen here,” Joseph Cosenza, a player in the game Sunday, told Fox 2 News in Detroit.

“All of that over a meaningless, know-nothing, over-30 men’s soccer league that, honestly, it’s not worth it,” Cosenza said.

“You know, we all want to go and play, but the more I talk to friends, the more they say it’s not worth playing anymore, because this is starting to happen more and more often.”

These brutal stories are necessary to publicize, as the photo of the man and his family, if only to remind players, coaches and parents time and time again that real people are officiating and playing alongside you. It’s not a video game.

Our condolences to Bieniewicz’s family, friends and the entire Detroit soccer community.

Latest Posts
  1. Mario Balotelli mocks Manchester United on twitter

    Sep 21, 2014, 11:21 AM EDT

    Balotelli AP

    Mario Balotelli put an LOL up on Twitter at Manchester United’s expense, and subjected himself to some horrible racial abuse.

  2. VIDEO: Angel Di Maria scores stunning chip for Manchester United

    Sep 21, 2014, 10:57 AM EDT

    ManchesterUnited AP

    Despite heavy defeat, United’s new attacker scores goal of the season contender.

  3. Watch Live: Everton vs. Crystal Palace (Lineups)

    Sep 21, 2014, 10:51 AM EDT

    Everton Getty Images

    Everton has sewn the seeds for a good run of form and are hoping to build on recent success against a struggling Palace squad.

  4. Watch Live: Manchester City vs. Chelsea (Lineups)

    Sep 21, 2014, 10:42 AM EDT

    Costa AP

    Diego Costa hsa been in fantastic form to begin his Premier League career, and has the chance to fire Chelsea five points clear at the top of the table.

  5. Leicester City 5-3 Manchester United: Foxes complete comeback for the ages

    Sep 21, 2014, 10:26 AM EDT

    LCFCvMUFC Getty Images

    Manchester United were left shell-shocked after blowing a 3-1 lead against Premier League minnows.

  6. Tottenham 0-1 West Brom: Baggies get off the bottom with deserved win

    Sep 21, 2014, 10:22 AM EDT

    WestBrom Getty Images

    Spurs offered little as James Morrison propelled West Brom off the bottom of the table.

  7. Leeds United makes move for manager Darko Milanic

    Sep 21, 2014, 9:33 AM EDT

    Milanic Getty Images

    Championship side Leeds is dipping into Eastern Europe to find their new manager.

  8. Goals flying as Manchester United lead Leicester City 2-1 before 20 minutes

    Sep 21, 2014, 8:53 AM EDT

    ManchesterUnited Getty Images

    King Power Stadium is bursting with attacking skill as three goals have come within the opening 20 minutes.

  9. Watch Live: Tottenham vs. West Brom (Lineups)

    Sep 21, 2014, 8:07 AM EDT

    Pochettino Getty Images

    Mauricio Pochettino has to navigate a pair of fixtures in four days thanks to the Europa League, and will look to avoid the first defeat to West Brom at White Hart Lane in 30 years.

  10. Watch Live: Leicester City vs. Manchester United (Lineups)

    Sep 21, 2014, 7:48 AM EDT

    Falcao Getty Images

    Radamel Falcao makes his first start for Manchester United who look to build on a strong win last weekend.

  11. Report: Manchester United target Strootman hires RVP’s agent to push move

    Sep 21, 2014, 7:25 AM EDT

    Strootman Getty Images

    Strootman has hired a man with a solid reputation to try and bring down Roma’s insane asking price.

  12. MLS Roundup: Sounders, D.C. United slip; LA gains ground in the West

    Sep 21, 2014, 1:55 AM EDT

    rodney_wallace Getty Images

    Highlights and recaps from the seven-match night in Major League Soccer.

  13. MLS Snapshot: LA Galaxy 2-1 FC Dallas

    Sep 21, 2014, 12:49 AM EDT

    MLS Sounders Galaxy Soccer AP

    Alan Gordon’s late winner moves LA even with Seattle at the top of Major League Soccer.

  14. Wenger, post-match: Focus was key as Arsenal burst past Aston Villa

    Sep 20, 2014, 10:25 PM EDT

    arsene_wenger Getty Images

    Arsenal’s manager lauded his team’s concentration in its 3-0 win at Villa Park.

  15. MLS Snapshot: New York Red Bulls 4-1 Seattle Sounders

    Sep 20, 2014, 9:27 PM EDT

    bradley_wright_phillips_tim_cahill AP

    Bradley Wright-Phillips is closing in on history after his season’s third hat trick.

  16. Premier League Sunday preview: Man City vs. Chelsea; Everton, Spurs, Man United in action

    Sep 20, 2014, 8:02 PM EDT

    Chelsea and Man City will square off early in the season. AP

    Can Chelsea stay perfect by beating Man City? Will United win again? How will Spurs, Everton do after Europa League action? Super Sunday is upon us.

  17. Premier League recap: All goals, highlights from Saturday’s action

    Sep 20, 2014, 7:52 PM EDT

    danny_welbeck AP

    Arsenal became the first to break through Aston Villa, while Sam Allardyce’s plans came to fruition in East London.

  18. MLS Snapshot: Portland Timbers 3-0 Vancouver Whitecaps

    Sep 20, 2014, 7:16 PM EDT

    diego_valeri AP

    The Timbers claim fifth in the Western Conference after another decisive win over their rivals.

  19. Watch Live: New York Red Bulls vs. Seattle Sounders (Lineups)

    Sep 20, 2014, 6:48 PM EDT

    Thierry Henry 4

    Thierry Henry will be center stage as two teams recovering from mid-week commitments meet at Red Bull Arena.

  20. Diego Valeri’s volley against Vancouver is near-perfection (video)

    Sep 20, 2014, 6:20 PM EDT

    Portland Timbers against the Seattle Sounders AP

    Portland’s brightest executed a sublime volley to give his team a first half lead.

Featured video

Breaking down Man City vs. Chelsea