Ref 'happy' with attacker's sentence

AMY MAAS
Last updated 09:17 17/11/2012
Len Gattsche
JOHN SELKIRK/Fairfax NZ
REFEREE: Len Gattsche.
Tama Fasavalu
JOHN SELKIRK/Fairfax NZ
SENTENCED: Tama Fasavalu.

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A soccer player who smashed a referee's jaw in three places in an on-field attack has been sentenced to nine months home detention.

His victim, veteran referee Len Gattsche said he may never officiate for a game again because of the attack, but is happy with sentence. 

Tama Fasavalu, 36, a former Manukau City and Samoan international player, was sentenced at Manukau District Court yesterday for the assault on Gattsche during an Anzac Day clash against Tauranga City. 

Fasavalu paid $2000 in reparation and has undertaken restorative justice. Outside court, Gattsche, said he was ''happy'' with the sentence.

"A sentence is a sentence but I suppose it's fair. It was only one hit, spur of the moment. I'm happy with it,'' he said.

Fasavalu, a father of two, said dealing with the death of his own father just days before the match pushed him over the edge and he regretted taking to the field that day. 

He claimed Gattsche repeatedly told him to ''f*** off, f*** off'' after giving him two yellow cards, and then a red, for heavy tackling.  

Fasavalu denied he was involved in heavy tackling and the penalty, coupled with grief, caused him to lash out. 

''I do regret my actions that day. But it would never have prevailed if I was treated fair like every other player,'' he said outside court. 

Gattsche needed two and a half hours of surgery and still experiences numbness in his face from his injuries.

The referee, who had at least 15 years' experience, was unsure if he would return to the game. 

In sentencing, Judge Sharon McAuslan took into account Fasavalu's early guilty plea, the fact he had undergone a restorative justice programme and was attending anger management courses. 

Fasavalu's lawyer Iuni Sapolu described the sentence as ''tough'' as her client would have to rely on the taxpayer to support his family while he served out his sentence.

Sapolu said she would appeal the sentence. 

Fasavalu had been suspended from his club indefinitely. 

The Auckland Football judicial review panel banned Fasavalu from the sport and fined his club $1000.

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