OAN’s James Meyers
8:39 AM – Tuesday, December 12, 2023
Turkish authorities have arrested the president of the top soccer club in the country after punching a referee in the face at the end of the match, causing the Turkish Football Federation to suspend all league games.
MKE Ankaragucu president Faruk Koca ran on to the pitch and attacked referee Halil Umut Meler after the game was over, following a 1-1 draw in a Super Lig game against Caykur Rizespor.
The official fell to the ground and was kicked several times during the scrum that also involved fans, who ran onto the pitch after Rizepor scored a last-second tying goal.
The federation announced they have suspended all league games indefinitely after an emergency meeting was held to discuss the incident.
The referee was hospitalized with a slight fracture near his eye but was not in serious condition. He is expected to be released from the hospital on Wednesday.
Koca was also hospitalized overnight, after being considered at risk of a heart attack. He was ordered arrested pending trial on charges of injuring a public official after questioning by prosecutors, Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc announced on X.
Additionally, two suspects accused of kicking Meler were also arrested while three others were let go from custody on condition that they report regularly to police.
While being questioned, Koca denied causing any injury, pleading that he merely slapped the referee, according to HaberTurk television. He also said it was Meler’s fault, claiming he made “wrongful decisions” and provocative acts, the station reported, citing unnamed judicial officials.
Koca resigned as Ankaragucu president, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
“This attack is unfortunate and shameful in the name of football,” federation chief Mehmet Buyukeksi said after the emergency meeting.
“We say enough is enough,” he added, insisting that all involved in the melee would be punished.
Buyukeksi also blamed the attack on bias against referees in Turkey.
“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.”
Buyukeski said the clash would not affect the league championship, adding that he received a call from UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin giving him his support.
FIFA President Gianni Infantinoalso gave his thoughts, saying: “There is absolutely no place for violence in football, on or off the field. Events following the Turkish Super Lig match between MKE Ankaragucu and Çaykur Rizespor are totally unacceptable and have no place in our sport or society.”
“Without match officials there is no football. Referees, players, fans and staff have to be safe and secure to enjoy the game, and I call on the relevant authorities to ensure that this is strictly implemented and respected at all levels.”
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