A Brazilian soccer match descended into chaos this week when an angry player knocked down a referee and appeared to deliberately kick him in the head while on the ground.
William Ribeiro, a midfielder for Sport Club Sao Paulo, was arrested at the stadium and later charged with attempted murder.
Shocking video of the incident on Monday shows Ribeiro attacking referee Rodrigo Crivellaro mid-match, leaving him unconscious on the field.
Police investigator Vinicius Lourenço de Assunção explained his reasoning for the charge to ESPN, saying that “according to the doctor, the referee presented confused speech. He was at very serious risk of injury to the cervical spine and head.”
“Because of this, I decided on the crime of attempted murder. When you kick someone's head lying down, you take the risk of killing them,” said Lourenço de Assunção.
If convicted, Ribeiro could face up to 30 years in prison, he said, although it would be significantly less if the referee survives. Crivellaro reportedly spent the night in the hospital and was released the next day.
The attack took place in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul during a second tier match between Ribeiro's Sport Club Sao Paulo and Guarani de Venancio Aires.
While video of the incident does not show the moments leading up to the attack, local media reported that Crivellaro was preparing to give Ribeiro a yellow card for complaining. The video begins with Crivellaro falling backwards into the frame, after what appears to be either a slide kick or push from Ribeiro. What is perfectly clear is that after the first blow, Ribeiro proceeds to kick Crivellaro in his head.
As the referee lies limp on the field, some players enter into a shoving match with Ribeiro while others, concerned for Crivellaro’s safety, wave to support staff to enter the pitch. Several armed men dressed in security gear and camouflage holding large batons run onto the field to quell the melee. An ambulance follows soon after, and Crivellaro is placed inside to be taken to the hospital. The rest of the game was postponed.
The team president of Sport Club Sao Paulo, Deivid Goulart Pereira, called the incident “revolting” in a released statement.
“Our club faced one of the saddest episodes of its history, a fateful scene that shocked all people who love not only [Rio Grande do Sul] soccer, but all those who simply love the sport in general.”
“We apologize to the battered professional and his family, as well as apologize to the public, in general, for the regrettable scene,” he continued, noting that the attack occurred on the 113-year anniversary of the team.
Goulart Pereira announced that Ribeiro's contract had been “summarily terminated” and “all possible and legal measures” will be taken.