Turkish Football President Arrested for Referee Assault: Shockwaves Through Football Community

In a shocking turn of events, Faruk Koca, president of MKE Ankaragucu, a Turkish football club, has been arrested for physically assaulting referee Halil Umut Meler after a top-flight match on Monday. The attack followed Ankaragucu’s 1-1 draw with Caykur Rizespor, where the team conceded a 97th-minute equalizer.

Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc confirmed the arrests of Koca and two others on charges of “injuring a public official.” In response to the incident, all Turkish league football has been temporarily suspended. Fifa president Gianni Infantino denounced the attack, emphasizing the unacceptable nature of violence in sports.

“Without match officials, there is no football,” Infantino stressed, calling on relevant authorities to ensure the safety of everyone involved in the game.

In a later statement through Ankaragucu, Koca announced his resignation as club president and issued an apology for his actions. He acknowledged the inexcusability of resorting to violence, expressing deep embarrassment for the incident and hoping it would prompt positive change in Turkish football’s “culture of violence.”

The Violent Turn of Events

The incident unfolded after Ankaragucu conceded a 97th-minute equalizer in a match against Caykur Rizespor. Chaos erupted on the pitch as Koca ran onto the field, assaulting referee Halil Umut Meler.

Meler suffered severe injuries, including a small facial fracture, after being knocked to the ground and subjected to multiple blows. Hospitalized and pictured with a swollen face and neck brace, Meler’s injuries are reported to be non-permanent, with no brain damage.

Meler, a top Turkish referee officiating international games for Fifa and part of Uefa’s elite referee list, recounted the attack, stating, “Faruk Koca punched me under my left eye – I fell to the ground. While I was on the ground, others kicked me in the face and different pieces of my body ordinarily.”

Reactions and Condemnations

Ankaragucu expressed regret for their president’s actions, apologizing to the Turkish football public and the entire sports community. Caykur Rizespor condemned the events, wishing Meler a swift recovery.

Turkish FA chairman Mehmet Buyukeksi declared the indefinite postponement of all league matches, calling the attack a “night of shame for Turkish football.” Uefa chief Refereeing Officer Roberto Rosetti and the Association of Active Football Referees and Observers of Turkey strongly condemned the incident, urging decisive action against those involved in referee abuse.

While Turkey remains a Euro 2032 co-host, the incident has not jeopardized hosting rights, according to Buyukeksi. The football community awaits decisions from the Turkish football federation on how the league will proceed, with a focus on referee well-being and the prevention of future violent incidents.

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