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Football in Turkey Suspended Indefinitely After Club President Punches Referee

Professional football in Turkey was shocked by a violent incident on the 12th, which lead to the suspension of all league games and the arrest of the perpetrator.

Referee Halil Umut Meler
Referee Halil Umut Meler. Credit: Shutterstock

Faruk Koca, president of MKE Ankaragucu, physically assaulted referee Halil Umut Meler at the conclusion of a Super Lig match against Caykur Rizespor.

The altercation unfolded after a 1-1 draw. Enraged at this result, Koca lashed out at Meler, punching him in the face. The dramatic scene on the pitch is captured in this video:

The referee collapsed to the ground, and chaos ensued, with players and officials rushing to intervene. Multiple people kicked Meler while he was on the ground during the scuffle.

Faruk Koca attacked Referee Halil Umut Meler at the end of game. Credit: Sky News

The Aftermath

The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) responded by suspending all league games indefinitely. The severity of the attack left Meler hospitalized with a slight eye fracture, though fortunately, doctors expect him to be discharged soon.

Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc announced Koca’s arrest on charges of injuring a public official. Despite denying any intent to cause harm, Koca resigned from his position at Ankaragucu following the arrest.

The TFF strongly condemned the attack, citing it as a consequence of a long-standing culture of disrespect towards referees within Turkish football.

President Mehmet Buyukeksi labeled the incident as “unfortunate and shameful” for the sport, promising strict punishment for the offenders.

Arrest of Faruk Koca, MKE Ankaragucu president
The arrest of Faruk Koca following the attack. Credit: Ihlas News Agency/YouTube

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan echoed these sentiments, emphasizing that sports should embody peace and unity. Erdogan’s ruling party took steps to expel Koca, a former member.

Rising Violence

This episode in Turkish football highlights longstanding issues plaguing football across Europe.

Greece recently announced a two-month period of matches without fans in light of a sport-related riot. France has long encountered challenges involving racist chanting and crowd violence. Similarly, the UK witnessed clashes between police and hooligans from Legia Warsaw during a Europa Conference League game.

The incident reignited calls for significant changes in the treatment of referees and an examination of the broader culture of violence within football.

Though the repercussions of this incident are likely to reverberate throughout the footballing world, it will take a focused, large-scale response to change this part of the sport’s culture fundamentally.

Written By

My name is William Bell and I'm a Junior at Colorado College studying mathematical economics. My interests include investing, banking, philosophy, and geopolitics.

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