SPOKANE, Wash. — A Spokane soccer referee said a player headbutted and punched him after he gave him a red card.

Referee Luke Staben said the injury was so bad, he had to go to the hospital.

For six years, Staben has been a referee. He's reffed matches in everything from youth leagues to college games. His love for the game took a hit last week.

"It was just shocking, honestly. You never expect something to happen like that," Staben said. "I was doing everything correctly, and I got assaulted."

It happened while he was officiating a men's rec-league match at Plante's Ferry. 

Staben said he was reffing a match for the Inland Northwest Soccer Association. It's an adult rec league. The league didn't immediately return a call seeking comment on what happened.

Staben declined to talk about the specifics of what happened. 

The Spokane County Sheriff's Office shared details of a report deputies received. The sheriff's office said Staben issued a red card to a player for rough play. With that, the player allegedly became enraged and started to yell at Staben. 

The player then headbutted Staben and then punched him, the sheriff's office said. Staben said he was left with a concussion.

"I would say that's the toughest part," he said. "It's tough to bounce back from something like this. Just emotionally."

Staben said the league has been cracking down on bad behavior and over the last couple of seasons, it has been working. He said the poor attitudes have persisted among some players.

"Especially the men's leagues, we still have tons of problems with them and referee abuse," Staben said.

For now, Staben said he's not cleared to ref again just yet. He'd like to. He wants everyone who's a sports fan, especially those at his matches, to recognize that it's a game and giving the ref a rough time can have consequences.

"I would say that most people don't realize that we are really trying to do our best job the whole time," said Staben. "Without referees, the game's not going to happen. It's as simple as that."

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