The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) has imposed a suspension on all leagues following a disgraceful incident in the nation’s football scene. Ankaragucu’s president, Faruk Koca, physically assaulted referee Halil Umut Meler at the conclusion of their Super Lig home match against Rizespor. Koca’s arrest was ordered by a Turkish court, prompted by his on-field attack on Meler when Rizespor secured a 97th-minute equalizer in the 1-1 draw at Eryaman Stadium on Monday, as depicted in footage from state broadcaster TRT.
Turkey’s Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya visited referee Halil Umut Meler in hospital on Tuesday (BBC SPORT)
In addition to Koca, two others have been formally arrested for “injuring a public official,” as confirmed by Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc. Ankaragucu fans stormed the pitch after the game, and Meler was subjected to further attacks, though the identities of his assailants remain unclear. With police assistance, Meler eventually reached the dressing room. In an interview with the state-owned Anadolu news agency, Meler revealed that Koca not only physically assaulted him but also issued threats to him and his colleagues. According to Meler, Koca’s attack resulted in him falling to the ground, where he was kicked multiple times by others.
MKE Ankaragucu president Faruk Koca throws a punch at referee Halil Umut Meler after the Turkish Super Lig game with Caykur Rizespor
Footage released later by the Turkish government showed Meler in a hospital bed with a swollen face and a neck brace. However, Mehmet Yorubulut, the chief doctor of Acibadem hospital, assured that there would be no permanent damage. He stated that the bleeding in Meler’s left eye was decreasing, and the fracture would gradually heal with no brain damage.
The Turkish Football Federation has not specified when the season will resume but asserted that all those responsible for the attack on referee Umut Meler will face the strongest possible punishment. FIFA President Gianni Infantino strongly condemned the post-match events, deeming them “totally unacceptable” and asserting that such behavior has no place in the sport or society. Emphasizing the importance of match officials, Infantino stated, “Without match officials, there is no football.”
Despite being a FIFA referee since 2017, 37-year-old Meler has rarely experienced such violent attacks, highlighting the severity of the incident. Referees in Turkey often face criticism from club managers and presidents, but physical assaults are infrequent. Ankaragucu currently holds the 11th position in the standings with 18 points, trailing Rizespor, who are in the eighth position with 22 points after 15 matches.