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Dutch soccer games canceled in tribute to slain linesman

A volunteer soccer official (file photo) was allegedly beaten to death by teenage players last Sunday.

Story highlights

  • All amateur games are canceled this weekend, the Dutch football association says
  • A minute's silence will be held before professional games in tribute to the linesman
  • Three teenagers have been charged in the death of the linesman
  • A Dutch newspaper ad says, "Without respect, no football"

Amateur football games across the Netherlands have been canceled this weekend in tribute to a volunteer soccer official whose beating death allegedly by teenage players has shocked the country.

A minute's silence also will be observed before all professional games this weekend, the Dutch Football Association, KNVB, said in a statement.

Players and match officials taking part in those games will wear black armbands, it said.

KNVB also has taken out large ads in newspapers with the message, "Without respect, no football."

The ads say that respect is "more than a word" and calls on people to show that they are against violence.

The cancellation affects 33,000 amateur games that would have been played over the weekend, according to Dutch public media.

Two 15-year-olds and a 16-year-old -- all Amsterdam club Nieuw Sloten players -- have been charged by Dutch police following the death of 41-year-old linesman Richard Nieuwenhuizen.

Nieuwenhuizen's son was playing in the match for his club, Buitenboys, when the incident occurred in the city of Almere on Sunday. The linesman reportedly fell into a coma after he was beaten. He died the next day.

The Dutch football association said it was encouraging clubs to open their doors and talk to each other about the tragedy.

A Facebook page has been set up to allow players and fans to share their ideas, it said in a statement, and many amateur clubs are gathering people together this weekend to pay tribute to Nieuwenhuizen.

"It is unbelievable that something like this can happen on a football field," said Bert van Oostveen, the association's director of professional football. "These are the volunteers our sport is built on, who we can't do without.

"Without respect, there is no football. This is also why we want to pay attention to this terrible situation. Our thoughts go out to Richard Nieuwenhuizen's relatives."

The football association said it had decided to go ahead with the weekend's professional matches so that fans and players would join together in a moment of remembrance and think about how to prevent such a tragedy recurring.

"The association cannot solve this problem alone. It cannot be solved only on the football field; there is no easy solution. A broad effort is needed, from government, schools, clubs, but certainly also from parents," said Anton Binnenmars, director of amateur football.

Nieuwenhuizen's death resonated across the globe, with FIFA President Sepp Blatter among those extending condolences.

"Football is a mirror of society, and sadly the same ills that afflict society -- in this case violence -- also manifest themselves in our game," said Blatter, according to a statement on fifa.com.

"Nevertheless, I remain convinced that football -- through the example set by the tireless efforts of people like Mr. Nieuwenhuizen -- is a force for good, and we must continue to use its positive example to educate people against these wrongs."

On its website Nieuw Sloten said it was "deeply shocked" by Nieuwenhuizen's death, adding that it would ban for life the players found to be responsible, pull its team from the league and temporarily suspend all operations as a club.

"Violence should not be on the football fields," said a statement on the Nieuw Sloten website.

"And certainly not against referees, linesmen and all those others who volunteer each year to help over a million amateur footballers. We must do everything possible to eliminate these excesses."

Despite a population of 17.5 million, Holland has built an outstanding reputation for developing young footballers over the years, with its amateur youth clubs providing a strong breeding ground for the country's professional clubs.

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