Turkish football league crisis: Things to know after violent attack on referee | Football News

League football in Turkey will resume on Tuesday after a brief suspension caused by a club president’s attack on a referee. The incident has raised plenty of questions on the environment in Turkish football, including on-pitch violence towards match officials.

MKE Ankaragucu President Faruk Koca attacked referee Halil Umut Meler.(REUTERS)

Here are the things to know about the incident:

What happened?

The incident occurred when the Turkish Super Lig match between MKA Ankaragucu and Caykur Rizespor ended in a 1-1 draw on Monday after a last-minute equaliser from the visitors in Ankara. After the full-time whistle, Ankaragucu President Faruk Koca rushed to the pitch with some people and knocked out referee Halil Umut Meler with a punch on his face.

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The referee was then kicked by people in the ensuing melee. Minutes later, he was shown standing up with a black eye. He made his way to the dugout with the help of the police.

Why was the referee attacked?

Koca seemed to be angry at the referee for sending off one of his players and then allowing the stoppage-time goal. In a statement, Meler said, “Faruk Koca punched me under my left eye, and I fell to the ground. While I was on the ground, they kicked my face and other parts of my body many times.”

“[He] told me and my fellow referees: ‘I will finish you.’ Addressing me in particular, he said: ‘I will kill you.”

How is the referee now?

The referee was released from hospital in Ankara on Wednesday, and underwent observation. He also received a phone call from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Who is Faruk Koca?

Koca is a politician, former parliamentarian and an aspiring mayor in Ankara. Also, he is a member of Erdogan’s AK Party. The party has reportedly initiated procedures to expel him. After the incident, he resigned from his role as club president. In a club statement, he said, “No matter how great an injustice or how wrong [the officiating] was, nothing can legitimise or explain the violence that I perpetrated. I apologise to the Turkish refereeing community, the sports public and our nation.”

Official reaction

Turkish Football Federation (TFF) boss Mehmet Buyukeksi has announced that penalties will be given for the incident. Meanwhile, Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc revealed that Koca has been formally arrested with two other men.

Meanwhile, Turkey President Erdogan wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, “Sports means peace and brotherhood. The sport is incompatible with violence. We will never allow violence to take place in Turkish sports.”

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