Turkish football matches to resume after club boss arrested over ref attack

Referee Halil Umut Meler holds his face after being hit by Ankaragucu's president Faruk Koca.

Referee Halil Umut Meler holds his face after being hit by Ankaragucu's president Faruk Koca. Photo: Anadolu via Getty

All of Turkey’s top-tier league matches will resume next week after a one-week ban following an on-field attack on a referee by a club president, the country’s football federation chairman has announced.

The president of Ankaragucu, Faruk Koca, entered the pitch and punched the referee in the face at the end of a Monday match.

The referee, Halil Umut Meler, was released from hospital on Wednesday with a swollen eye but no other health issues.

Koca has since been arrested for hitting Meler at the end of Monday’s Turkish Super Lig match against Caykur Rizespor.

Rizespor had scored a 97th-minute equaliser in the 1-1 draw leaving both clubs in mid-table.

Meler, who was also kicked on the ground as others joined the assault, was taken to hospital after the attack, with the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) then suspending domestic football in the country indefinitely.

Turkish referee Umut Meler waves as he leaves the hospital in Ankara. where he was treated in Ankara. Photo: AFP/Getty

The country’s justice minister, Yilmaz Tunc, said Koca had been arrested “for injuring and threatening a public servant due to his public duty”.

Two others were remanded in custody and judicial controls imposed on three more suspects. Koca later announced his resignation as club president.

Meler said Koca threatened him and his colleagues, state-owned Anadolu news agency reported.

“Faruk Koca punched me under my left eye; I fell to the ground. While I was on the ground, other people kicked me in the face and other parts of my body many times,” he said.

“Koca said to me and my colleagues, ‘I will finish you’. Addressing me, he said, ‘I will kill you’.”

Demiroren News Agency reported that Koca told the court: “This incident developed due to the wrong decisions and provocative behaviour of the referee. My aim was to react verbally to the referee and spit in his face.”

Koca subsequently announced he had quit in “order to prevent any further harm to the Ankaragucu club, Ankaragucu fans, the community I am in and my family”.

“The bleeding in Meler’s left eye started to decrease” and there will be no permanent damage, said Mehmet Yorubulut, chief doctor of Acibadem hospital.

“The fracture there will gradually heal. There is no brain damage,” he said.

Meler was visited by TFF president Mehmet Buyukeksi and interior minister Ali Yerlikaya and telephoned by Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Koca was twice elected to Turkey’s parliament as part of Erdogan’s ruling AK Party.

Meler has refereed in UEFA club competitions, and UEFA’s chief refereeing officer Roberto Rosetti condemned the attack, as did FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

-with Reuters

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