THE HAGUE, Netherlands A Dutch man working as a linesman during his son's youth soccer match was beaten and kicked by several soccer players after the game and died the next day.
Richard Nieuwenhuizen collapsed and was rushed to the hospital hours after players from Amsterdam club Nieuw Sloten punched and kicked him. Nieuwenhuizen's club, Buitenboys, said the 41-year-old linesman died Monday evening but did not announce the exact cause of death.
"You can't believe this could happen. That kids of 15 or 16 are playing football, you come to watch and see something like that," Buitenboys club chairman Marcel Oost told national broadcaster NOS.
Three players, whose ages range from 15 to 16, were arrested earlier Monday for alleged involvement in the beating Sunday in the town of Almere.
Dutch sports minister Edith Schippers told NOS before the news of Nieuwenhuizen's death that "it is absolutely terrible that something like this can happen on a Dutch sports field."
Nieuwenhuizen had been officiating a match in which one of his sons was playing, NOS reported from Almere.
"He did it every week," Oost said. "He enjoyed doing it. He was a real football man; he was always here."
Parents and other volunteers regularly referee and officiate at sports matches involving their children in the Netherlands, where sports such as soccer and hockey are incredibly popular and well-organized for young players.
Police spokeswoman Leonie Bosselaar said shortly before the linesman's death was announced that the players were still in custody and investigations were ongoing. She added that police would not rule out arresting more suspects.
Nieuw Sloten said in a statement on its website it has banned the players involved and pulled their team out of the league. The statement said such incidents "do not belong on a football field."
Both clubs canceled all training scheduled for Monday.
The Dutch FA said all 42 of Nieuw Sloten's matches for next weekend had been cancelled at the club's request.
The death came almost exactly a year after a Dutch amateur soccer player fatally kicked a 77-year-old supporter following a match.
Amsterdam District Court last week sentenced the player, identified only as Silvester M. in line with Dutch privacy law, to three years' imprisonment for kicking the supporter so hard in the chest that his spleen ruptured. He died of his injuries a month later.
The attack in Almere was even discussed at a news conference in Spain on the eve of Ajax's Champions League match against Real Madrid.
"You can't imagine it happening," said Ajax coach Frank de Boer. "That boys of 15, 16 years short circuit like that. You wonder about the parenting.
"Something has to be done, because this is too ridiculous for words."