- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 4, 2012

THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS (AP) - Richard Nieuwenhuizen was doing what he loved: watching his son play soccer and volunteering as a linesman.

On Monday, the 41-year-old father’s passion for the sport cost him his life.

Prosecutors announced Tuesday they are charging three players, two 15-year-olds and a 16-year-old, in the attack on Nieuwenhuizen after a youth match between local clubs _ Buitenboys and Nieuw Sloten.

The players, whose identities have not been released, are to be charged with manslaughter, assault and public violence. They will be arraigned Thursday at a closed hearing.

Prosecutors have released no details of a possible motive, and Buitenboys club chairman Marcel Oost said the reason for the attack was not certain.

“We still don’t have a clear picture yet,” prosecution spokeswoman Brigit Haan told The Associated Press.

The deadly assault sent shock waves through the Netherlands, a country where soccer is king. The sports minister, soccer federation and coach of the nation’s most storied club, Ajax, expressed disbelief.

The Royal Netherlands Football Association on Tuesday said it was canceling all amateur soccer games this weekend as a mark of respect for Nieuwenhuizen. Professional matches will proceed, but players and officials will wear black armbands and observe a minute’s silence before kickoff.

The attack hit at one of the foundations of Dutch youth sport _ the participation of parents.

“It is unbelievable that something like this could happen on a football pitch,” said Bert van Oostveen, the association’s director of professional soccer. “These are the volunteers on which our sport is built. Without them we cannot go on.”

On any given weekend, at thousands of games across the Netherlands, parents are the engine powering youth soccer. They volunteer for everything from brewing tea to marking out lines on fields and wielding whistles and flags as referees and linesmen.

In the overwhelming majority of matches, players and parents enjoy the game and then have a drink together in the clubhouse.

But sometimes frustrations boil over into violence after the final whistle.

Amsterdam alderman Eric van der Burg, whose responsibilities in the city cover sports, said the team from Nieuw Sloten had been in trouble twice before, once for verbally abusing a referee and once when a player fought with a spectator. The player involved in the fight was suspended by the club, Van der Burg told the AP in an email.

He said the city already has an agreement from four-time European champion Ajax at the top all the way down to small local clubs to prevent aggression on and around fields.

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