Turkish club Ankaragucu’s President Faruk Koca arrested after assault on referee

Turkey’s Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya visited referee Halil Umut Meler in hospital on Tuesday(L) and Referee Halil Umut Meler also received several kicks after being knocked to the ground (R).—Reuters

MKE Ankaragucu President Faruk Koca has been arrested for physically assaulting referee Halil Umut Meler after a match against Caykur Rizespor, resulting in a 1-1 draw. 

The incident unfolded when Ankaragucu conceded a 97th-minute equalizer, prompting Koca to run onto the pitch and strike the match official.

Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc confirmed the arrests, stating that Koca and two others were arrested for “injuring a public official.” This egregious act has led to the suspension of all Turkish league football, eliciting strong condemnation from various quarters.

Fifa President Gianni Infantino expressed his disapproval, emphasising that violence has no place in sports or society. He underscored the essential role of match officials in the game and called for measures to ensure their safety.

The injured referee, Halil Umut Meler, sustained blows on the turf, resulting in a small facial fracture. Meler, a respected international referee affiliated with Fifa and Uefa, reported the attack, stating: “Faruk Koca punched me under my left eye – I fell to the ground. While I was on the ground, other people kicked me in the face and other parts of my body many times.”

Amid widespread condemnation, Ankaragucu expressed regret, apologising to the football community for the unfortunate incident. Caykur Rizespor conveyed support to Meler, condemning the post-match events.

Turkish FA chairman Mehmet Buyukeksi labelled the attack as a “night of shame for Turkish football,” leading to the indefinite suspension of matches. Uefa Chief Refereeing Officer Roberto Rosetti strongly condemned the incident, emphasising the need for decisive action against such abuse.

The Association of Active Football Referees and Observers of Turkey urged referees to refrain from taking the pitch until necessary changes are made, emphasising that the attack was not only against Meler but the entire referee community. The incident has sparked widespread calls for reforms and measures to prevent violence in Turkish football.

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