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. Adel Taarabt jabs back after Redknapp’s scathing comments

    Oct 20, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT

    Taarabt Getty Images

    Adel Taarabt says the harsh words from manager Harry Redknapp are not only untrue but damaging as a professional.

  2. New York Cosmos reportedly sign Spanish legend Raul, will play and coach

    Oct 20, 2014, 6:16 PM EDT

    Raul Getty Images

    The New York Cosmos completed a massive signing, beating out a few of his former clubs to nab the Spanish legend as a player and coach.

  3. Report: Croatia friendly a no-go, but USMNT still likely to play that date

    Oct 20, 2014, 5:36 PM EDT

    Jurgen Klinsmann

    Despite a solid confirmation from Croatia, the friendly will reportedly not be happening.

  4. WATCH: West Brom 2-2 Manchester United: Blind earns draw for Red Devils on road

    Oct 20, 2014, 4:56 PM EDT

    WestBromUnited Getty Images

    Manchester United came from behind twice but still must settle for a disappointing result away from home.

  5. Teen Lazio striker totals his Lamborghini in Rome

    Oct 20, 2014, 4:35 PM EDT

    Lambo

    19-year-old Lazio striker Keita Balde Diao somehow walked away from what looks to be a major accident. His Lamborghini, however, didn’t.

  6. UEFA fines Wales and Galatasary, spare Arsenal

    Oct 20, 2014, 3:20 PM EDT

    Arsenal FC v Galatasaray AS - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Unruly fans will cost Wales and Galatasary as UEFA continues to crack down on off-the-pitch incidents.

  7. 2014 Homeless World Cup kicks off in Chile

    Oct 20, 2014, 2:35 PM EDT

    FBL-CHILE-HOMELESS WORLD CUP Getty Images

    The yearly tournament organizes five-a-side matches for people that are homeless or living in extreme poverty.

  8. Transfer talk: Multiple PL clubs interested in Andre Ayew

    Oct 20, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT

    FBL-FRA-LIGUE1-GUINGAMP-MARSEILLE Getty Images

    Liverpool, Everton and Swansea City are just a few of the Premier League clubs reportedly looking to sign the Marseille winger.

  9. Lukas Podolski: ‘Hell will freeze over’ before playing for Spurs

    Oct 20, 2014, 12:37 PM EDT

    FBL-ENG-FACUP-ARSENAL-HULL Getty Images

    With transfer rumors swirling, the Arsenal forward made it clear that he is #AlwaysAGunner.

  10. South Africa rules out hosting Africa Cup of Nations

    Oct 20, 2014, 11:51 AM EDT

    FBL-AFR2015-SUD-RSA Getty Images

    Amidst the Ebola outbreak, South Africa has ruled out hosting the continent’s premier tournament should Morocco back out.

  11. Indian player dies after goal celebration

    Oct 20, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    Sad news out of India as a young player died after injuring his spinal cord during a celebration.

  12. CSKA Moscow striker says Manchester City are ‘very weak’

    Oct 20, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-CSKA-BAYERN Getty Images

    Ahmed Musa stirred the pot ahead of his club’s Champions League clash this week, calling out City’s form.

  13. Premier League Preview: West Brom vs. Manchester United

    Oct 20, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT

    FBL-ENG-PR-MAN UTD-WEST BROM Getty Images

    Watch the Baggies take on Manchester United today, live at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

  14. Petr Cech is giving Thibaut Courtois safety tips

    Oct 20, 2014, 8:40 AM EDT

    Chelsea v Arsenal - Premier League Getty Images

    The Chelsea backup is teaching his replacement how to stay safe from head injuries, which have affected both keepers.

  15. Premier League Playback: Liverpool can’t get rid of Luis Suarez hangover

    Oct 20, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

    Queens Park Rangers v Liverpool - Premier League Getty Images

    PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an in-depth look at the PL during Week 8.

  16. Neil Warnock says Chelsea players influenced referee

    Oct 20, 2014, 7:43 AM EDT

    Crystal Palace v Chelsea - Premier League Getty Images

    In a game that saw both sides reduced to ten men, the Crystal Palace manager believes the referee could have done better.

  17. MUST SEE: Wesley Sneijder scores two wonder goals

    Oct 19, 2014, 11:38 PM EDT

    Galatasaray AS v RSC Anderlecht - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    The Dutch midfielder scored off two ridiculous strikes to lead Galatasary over rivals Fenerbahce.

  18. MLS Sunday roundup: Seattle spoils Donovan’s last home game

    Oct 19, 2014, 11:05 PM EDT

    San Jose Earthquakes v Los Angeles Galaxy Getty Images

    The Sounders came from 2-0 down to steal a draw in Los Angeles at Landon Donovan’s final regular season home game.

  19. Bayern Munich bag six without allowing a single shot

    Oct 19, 2014, 10:13 PM EDT

    FC Bayern Muenchen v SV Werder Bremen - Bundesliga Getty Images

    Werder Bremen became the first team without a shot in a Bundesliga game as Bayern continues to cruise.

  20. Where does Sergio Aguero rank with the world’s best?

    Oct 19, 2014, 9:09 PM EDT

    Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Getty Images

    The Argentinian forward is scoring goals at a blistering pace for Manchester City. Could he be the most lethal striker in Europe?

Featured video

Week 8: Saturday PL recap