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Three men arrested and Turkish league games suspended after referee attacked

Referee Halil Umut Meler falls down after being punched by MKE Ankaragucu president Faruk Koca
Referee Halil Umut Meler falls down after being punched by MKE Ankaragucu president Faruk Koca Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Euronews with AP, AFP
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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.

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The main suspects in an attack on a football referee in the Turkish capital, Ankara have been arrested. The three men including a club president, punched a referee in the face at the end of a top-flight match. Following the attack, the Turkish Football Federation suspended all league games in the country.

MKE Ankaragucu president Faruk Koca attacked referee Halil Umut Meler on the pitch late Monday after the final whistle, following a one-all draw in a Super Lig game against Caykur Rizespor.

The referee, who fell to the ground, was also kicked in a melee which ensued after fans invaded the pitch after Rizespor scored a last-minute equaliser.

The federation suspended all league games indefinitely after an emergency meeting was held to discuss the violence.

Referee Halil Umut Meler is seen lying on the ground after being punched by MKE Ankaragucu president Faruk Koca
Referee Halil Umut Meler is seen lying on the ground after being punched by MKE Ankaragucu president Faruk KocaAP Photo

Meler was hospitalised with a slight fracture near his eye but was not in a serious condition. He was expected to be discharged on Wednesday. Koca, who was considered to be at risk of a heart attack, was also hospitalised overnight. 

According to HaberTurk television, Koca has denied causing any injury, insisting he merely slapped the referee. The TV report also said the club president blamed the incident on Meler, who he accused of “wrongful decisions” and provocative acts." 

“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 violence would be punished.

Buyukeksi also blamed the attack on a culture of contempt toward 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.”

Speaking to reporters after visiting Meler in hospital, Buyukeksi said he hoped the incident would become a “milestone” for change for football in Turkey, which has been selected to co-host the 2032 European Championship with Italy.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also condemned the attack.

“Sports means peace and brotherhood. The sport is incompatible with violence. We will never allow violence to take place in Turkish sports,” he wrote on X.

Violence in football is commonplace in Turkey and some other European countries. 

On Monday, Greece announced that all top-flight soccer matches would be played without fans in the stadiums for the next two months following a sport-related riot last week that left a police officer with life-threatening injuries.

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