Dutch football is in shock after a youth league assistant referee died from severe head injuries after being beaten by a group of teenage players in an apparently motiveless attack.
Richard Nieuwenhuizen, 41, collapsed and was taken to hospital hours after being beaten by three players from the Amsterdam youth club Nieuw Sloten on Sunday. He died on Monday.
Mr Nieuwenhuizen had been officiating in a match against the rival Buitenboys club in the town of Almere and one of his own sons has been playing. He was set upon by three teenagers aged between 15 and 16 after the game ended in a 2-2 draw. "It is unbelievable that something like this can happen," said Marcel Oost, chairman of the Buitenboys club.
Dutch police said three teenagers from Amsterdam were to be charged with manslaughter after their earlier arrest over what they described as an unprovoked attack. "They are under arrest while investigations continue. They are allowed to speak to no one apart from a lawyer," a spokeswoman said.
Witnesses interviewed by the Dutch television channel RTL4 said several players ran up to Mr Nieuwenhuizen after the final whistle was blown. They said a group of them then attacked him and pushed him to the ground. One of the players, wearing football boots, was reported to have stood on his head. "Then he was kicked three times in the stomach," one of the witnesses said.
The spectators, many of them parents of the players, gradually left the ground and Mr Nieuwenhuizen got up. Apparently not seriously affected by the attack, he stood on a touch line watching another game.
"Suddenly he collapsed," Rob Mueller, a board member of the Buitenboys club, told Dutch television.
An emergency doctor was summoned to the pitch and Mr Nieuwenhuizen was taken to hospital. When doctors noticed that he was unable to speak, he was transferred to a special neurological clinic. But doctors there said his brain was receiving no oxygen and that they were unable to operate. They decided to turn off his life support system on Monday.
Mr Mueller said the match was interrupted several times as members of the Nieuw Sloten side were becoming unruly.