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Argentina referees vow to strike after referee attacked in fourth division

Argentina's union of referees has threatened to go on strike to protest the brutal attack on an official by angry fans on Sunday.

Players and a section of fans of fourth-division Argentine side Sarmiento de Ayacucho attacked referee Claudio Elichiri during a semifinal promotion playoff against Sansinena on Sunday.

A group of supporters stormed the field after Elichiri did not award a foul for the home side. Sansinena scored immediately afterward to go 2-1 up in the second leg and 4-2 on aggregate.

Several Sarmiento players began to push the officials before fans jumped onto the field as violence escalated. The referees had to be escorted off the field as the game at the Ayacucho Municipal stadium was suspended.

SADRA union director Guillermo Marconi said on Tuesday that the referees want to launch a stoppage across all divisions following the incident.

"The executive committee has decided on a work stoppage across the entire country this weekend," Marconi told radio station La Red.

A strike could lead to the postponement of Saturday's Buenos Aires derby between giants River Plate and Boca Juniors.

Elichiri, who needed medical assistance, told Ole: "I never thought this could happen to me. I need four stitches under my left eye. I can't move my lips and everything hurts.

"I went home, I hugged my wife and we cried. This was something unexpected.

"I sent off a player for dissent, then another one hit me from behind and then everything happened."

Sunday's attack was just the latest episode of violence in Argentine football. Two months ago, a female referee assistant claimed she received a blow to the back of her neck by an angry player following a match between Quilmes and Deportivo Merlo in Argentina's Primera C.

Elichiri said he hopes those responsible for Sunday's incident are handed harsh punishments to prevent further violence in stadiums.

"I hope that this ends once and for all," he said. "We need to put an end to this violence and that they fine those they have to fine.

"You cannot be brutally attacked on a football pitch. There has to be harsh punishment handed out.

"I don't live off refereeing but I love it and will continue to officiate."

Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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