'Tough' sentence for player who bashed referee

AMY MAAS
Last updated 13:23 16/11/2012
Len Gattsche
PHIL DOYLE/Fairfax Media
LEN GATTSCHE: Had his jaw broken on both sides and in three places after red-carding a player during a football match in Auckland.

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An Auckland footballer who broke a referee's jaw during a match, claiming grief and racism pushed him over the edge, has been sentenced to nine months home detention.

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

Fasavalu, a father of two, said he was dealing with the death of his father just days before the match and regrets taking to the field that day.

He said Gattsche repeatedly told him to "f*** off, f*** off" after giving him two yellow cards, and therefore 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.

He broke Gattsche's jaw in three places.

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

The referee, who has at least 15 years' experience, is unsure if he will 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 serves out his sentence.

Sapolu said she would appeal the sentence.

Fasavalu has 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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