Leicester amateur footballer in court for punching rival player
An amateur footballer suffered multiple facial fractures after being punched by a rival player.
Jo Popat punched a man who had made a bad tackle on him, leaving the victim with a broken eye socket and shattered cheekbone.
Popat, club development manager for British Wheelchair Basketball and works with disabled athletes, was given an 11-month jail sentence, suspended for two years, with 200 hours of unpaid work.
He will also have to pay £1,000 compensation to the victim, who needed an operation because of his injuries.
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Popat, of New Fields Avenue, Braunstone, Leicester, admitted inflicting grievous bodily harm during a Leicestershire and Rutland County FA Sunday league match on November 13 last year.
Gary Short, prosecuting, said the victim played for Global Athletic FC, who were at home in Whittier Road, Aylestone, against the defendant's side, AFC Sporting.
He said the game was described as "high-octane" on both sides, with banter and one player already sent off.
He said the complainant tackled the defendant, who then punched him.
Mr Short said the referee saw the complainant "shoulder barge" the defendant in a "reckless manner", knocking him to the ground.
As he was about to give the complainant a yellow card, the defendant got up and hit his rival with a single blow.
Popat was sent off and the victim went to hospital.
Mr Short said: "He had multiple fractures to his cheek and eye socked and had surgery to reposition the bones, with two plates and an implant inserted."
When arrested, Popat (32) claimed he was provoked.
Andrew Bolc, mitigating, said: "It's a great shame and sadness that a young man who has dedicated his working career to the assistance of young people – through the use of sport as a tool to engage them – finds himself before the court for an incident involving a sporting event.
"It was a bad-tempered match, with banter, slating and needling going on. The defendant was affected by it."
He said there was no grudge between the teams and it was not known why matters soured.
Mr Bolc said: "It was a reckless challenge on the defendant and needling led to him lashing out with a single blow, in the heat of the moment, with severe consequences to the victim."
Popat, a father of two, who had no previous convictions, was praised for good deeds and charitable work in references handed in to the court.
Sentencing, Judge Ebraham Mooncey said he accepted the offence was out of character.
He quoted a letter from a Leicester College official describing Popat as "a calm person normally" and someone who "works tirelessly in the community with young people".
Judge Mooncey said the victim suffered "serious injury" and the defendant had now lost his previously unblemished good name.
Popat was also ordered to pay £300 costs