Man who punched Montreal teen soccer ref -- a grandfather and ex-teacher -- apologizes

The man who was captured on video assaulting a teenage soccer referee has apologized, saying he's "deeply pained" by his own actions and is seeking help.

He isn't being identified but said he's a grandfather, whose grandson was playing in the under-14 match at the time, and a former teacher.

"As a former teacher, I'm especially aware that this was a terrible example to set for 14-year-old youngsters," he wrote in a statement in French that was published online by Soccer Quebec on Tuesday.

"I'd like to apologize to everyone who witnessed this moment of distraction that lacked civility and courtesy and set an example of violence that was completely against my own values," he later added.

"I've begun an effort to seek help, because my actions were unjustifiable and didn't represent who I am, nor who I want to be."

Video of the match, which he said took place on Saturday in Dollard-des-Ormeaux, circulated widely and drew a statement of condemnation from Soccer Quebec, and even one from Quebec's minister for sports.

It showed a man coming onto the field from the stands, briefly speaking to a young linesman, and then punching him in the head while the boy tried to push him away.

Soccer Quebec said the young linesman is doing well, in the circumstances, and plans to keep refereeing.

The long apology, which is published in full below, was more than welcome to the organization as it decides what to do about the incident, said head of refereeing Nathanael de Wilde. 

"There are committees in place which have assessed this situation and will take the appropriate measures," he said.

"It is sure that a letter like that -- we as an organization are delighted, it's a first step. This kind of behaviour on the field has no place, [and] even less towards a referee who is a minor."

In an interview with CTV, Minister of Sport Isabelle Charest called on all Quebec families to keep in mind the real point of having kids in sports, even when they're upset about a call.

"We need to remember that this is just a game, and the way we react to the referees -- the referees are just like the kids. They're learning, they're not like the pro league referees," she said.

"So we need to accept that they're going to make mistakes, and at the end of the day it's just a game. It doesn't really matter if they win or lose, or if the referee misses a call."

The man at the centre of the controversy went further in his statement, saying one of the goals of having children play sports is to provide them with a good learning environment, and saying that in the end, he hopes his own mistake will help remind people of that.

The man's full statement, translated into English, is below:

"On May 7, I attended my grandson's soccer match in Dollard-des-Ormeaux in Montreal's West Island. During the game, I started an altercation that was verbal, then physical, with a young linesman. I behaved in an unacceptable way and I take responsibility for that. Rest assured that I profoundly regret it. As a former teacher, I'm especially aware that this was a terrible example to set for 14-year-old youngsters.

I therefore offer my sincere apologies, above all to this young man and his family. I also apologize to the players and coaches of the two teams, as well as the other officials at the game. Finally, I'd like to apologize to everyone who witnessed this moment of distraction that lacked civility and courtesy and set an example of violence that was completely against my own values. I've begun an effort to seek help, because my actions were unjustifiable and didn't represent who I am, nor who I want to be.

I'm deeply pained by the situation and by the consequences that it generated for so many people, including members of my family. I'm conscious that many were shocked and hurt by my actions and I ask their forgiveness.

I'm aware that my action can't be erased. I hope, nonetheless, that it allows everyone to be aware of the importance for our children and grandchildren to be able to have fun taking part in their favourite sport in a violence-free environment."

Newsletters

Breaking News alerts, info on contests, and special offers from partners