February 21, 2024


A referee attack from a club president during a Super Lig match in Turkey led to the suspension of all soccer matches on Tuesday.

MKE Ankaragucu President Faruk Koca attacked referee Halil Umut Meler on the pitch Monday night after his team’s match ended in a 1-1 draw against Caykur Rizespor. The referee fell to the ground and was also kicked during the melee after fans also stormed the pitch.

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Ref punched in the face

Faruk Koca, president of MKE Ankaragucu, throws a punch at referee Halil Umut Meler after the Turkish Super Lig week 15 football match between MKE Ankaragucu and Rizespor at Eryaman Stadium in Ankara, Turkey, on Dec. 11, 2023. (Emin Sansar/Anadolu via Getty Images)

The Turkish Football Federation announced it suspended all league games indefinitely after an emergency meeting was held to talk about the skirmish.

“This attack is unfortunate and shameful in the name of football,” Turkish Football Federation boss Mehmet Buyukeksi said after the meeting. “We say enough is enough.

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

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Halil Umut Meler on the ground

Referee Halil Umut Meler holds his face as he lies on the ground after being punched by MKE Ankaragucu President Faruk Koca, center, at the end of the Turkish Super Lig soccer match between MKE Ankaragucu and Caykur Rizespor in Ankara, Monday, Dec. 11, 2023. (Abdurrahman Antakyali/Depo Photos via AP)

Meler was hospitalized with a slight fracture near his eye. He was seen with a bruise underneath his eye after the attack. He was expected to be discharged on Wednesday.

Koca was considered to be at risk of a heart attack and was also hospitalized. Turkey’s Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc announced that Koca was ordered to be arrested on charges of injuring a public official.

Koca denied causing injury, insisting he only slapped Meler, according to Turkish media. He reportedly blamed the incident on the referee and accused him of making “wrongful decisions.”

A fight in the Turkish league

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. Faruk Koca was arrested on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023, along with two other people, on charges of injuring a public official following questioning by prosecutors. (Abdurrahman Antakyali/Depo Photos via AP)

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Meler told reporters from a hospital that he hoped the incident would spark change in the country. Turkey is set to hold the 2032 European Championship with Italy.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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