Night of shame: Turkey suspends all league games after club president punches referee

Meler was hospitalized with a slight fracture near his eye but was not in a serious condition

By AP

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Halil Umut Meler is struck by MKE Ankaragucu president Faruk Koca. Photo X
Halil Umut Meler is struck by MKE Ankaragucu president Faruk Koca. Photo X

Published: Tue 12 Dec 2023, 1:16 PM

The Turkish Football Federation has suspended all league games in the country after a club president punched the referee in the face at the end of a top-flight match.

MKE Ankaragucu president Faruk Koca attacked referee Halil Umut Meler on the pitch late Monday after the final whistle, following a 1-1 draw in a Super Lig game against Caykur Rizespor.

The referee, who fell to the ground, was also kicked in a melee that occurred after fans also invaded the pitch after Rizespor scored a last-minute equalizer.

The federation announced it suspended all league games indefinitely after an emergency meeting held to discuss the violence.

The referee, who fell to the ground, was also kicked in a melee. Photo X
The referee, who fell to the ground, was also kicked in a melee. Photo X

Meler was hospitalized with a slight fracture near his eye but was not in a serious condition.

Koca, who was considered to be at risk of a heart attack, was also hospitalized overnight. He was ordered arrested pending trial on charges of injuring a public official on Tuesday, after questioning by prosecutors, Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc announced on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Two suspects accused of kicking Meler were also arrested while three others were freed from custody on condition that they report regularly to police.

Turkish Referee Halil Umut Meler (ground) cover s up as MKE Ankaragucu's president Faruk Koca (L) attacks him at the end of the Turkish Super Lig football match between MKE Ankaragucu and Caykur Rizespor at Eryaman Stadium in Ankara, on December 11, 2023. AFP
Turkish Referee Halil Umut Meler (ground) cover s up as MKE Ankaragucu's president Faruk Koca (L) attacks him at the end of the Turkish Super Lig football match between MKE Ankaragucu and Caykur Rizespor at Eryaman Stadium in Ankara, on December 11, 2023. AFP

During his questioning, Koca denied causing any injury, insisting that he merely slapped the referee, according to HaberTurk television. The club president also blamed the incident on Meler, whom he accused of “wrongful decisions” and provocative acts, the station reported, citing unnamed judicial officials.

“This attack is unfortunate and shameful in the name of football,” federation chief Mehmet Buyukeksi said after the meeting.

“We say enough is enough,” he added, insisting that all involved in the violence would be punished.

Buyukeksi also blamed the attack on a culture of contempt toward referees in Turkey.

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“Everyone who has targeted referees and encouraged them to commit crimes is complicit in this despicable attack,” he said. “The irresponsible statements of club presidents, managers, coaches and television commentators targeting referees have opened the way for this attack.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also condemned the attack.

“Sports means peace and brotherhood. The sport is incompatible with violence. We will never allow violence to take place in Turkish sports,” he wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.


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