MKE Ankaragucu President Faruk Koca lashes out at referee Halil Umut Meler after the Turkish Super Lig match against Caykur Rizespor

A Turkish football club president has been arrested after punching a referee after a top-flight match on Monday.

MKE Ankaragucu president Faruk Koca ran onto the pitch and punched referee Halil Umut Meler after his team conceded a 97th-minute equalizer in a 1-1 draw against Caykur Rizespor.

Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc said Koca and two other people were officially arrested for “injuring a public official.”

All Turkish league football was suspended following the incident.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino said the incident was “totally unacceptable” and that violence had “no place in our sport or our society.”

“Without match officials there is no football,” he said. “Referees, players, fans and staff must be safe and protected to enjoy the game and I appeal to the relevant authorities to ensure this is strictly implemented and respected at all levels.”

Tunc said Koca and two other people were arrested after the prosecutor’s office made statements and a judicial control decision was issued against three other suspects.

“The investigation continues meticulously,” he added.

What happened?

Hosts Ankaragucu took an early lead in Monday evening’s Süper Lig game before a player was sent off after 50 minutes. Caykur equalized late on after a player was also sent off, and there were chaotic scenes after the final whistle.

After being thrown to the ground, Meler suffered multiple blows while lying on the grass, sustaining injuries including a small facial fracture.

He was pictured on Tuesday lying in a hospital bed with a swollen face and a neck brace.

Mehmet Yorubulut, chief physician at Acibadem Hospital, said Meler had not suffered brain damage and was expected to be discharged on Wednesday.

“The bleeding in Meler’s left eye began to subside,” Yorubulut said, adding that there will be no permanent damage.

Meler, 37, is one of Turkey’s best referees and officiates international games for FIFA. He is also on UEFA’s elite referee list.

Koca, 59, was elected to the Turkish parliament twice as a member of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party.

Erdogan spoke to Meler in the hospital and said the incident left him “sad and disturbed.”

He had previously said: “Sports means peace and brotherhood. Sport is incompatible with violence. We will never allow violence to occur in Turkish sport.”

MKE Ankaragucu President Faruk Koca takes a swipe at referee Halil Umut Meler after the Turkish Süper Lig match against Caykur Rizespor. Referee Halil Umut Meler was in hospital overnight. Turkish Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya visits referee Halil Umut Meler in the hospital on Tuesday

What was the reaction?

Ankaragucu expressed regret over his president’s actions, saying in a statement: “We are saddened by the incident.”

“We apologize to the Turkish football public and the entire sports community for the sad incident that occurred after the Caykur Rizespor game at the Eryaman Stadium.”

Caykur Rizespor sent a message of support to Meler, saying: “We strongly condemn the adverse events following the Ankaragucu game.”

“We wish the entire refereeing community, especially the match referee, Halil Umut Meler, a speedy recovery.”

In a press conference on Monday evening, the Turkish Football Association said [TFF] Chairman Mehmet Buyukeksi said: “The games in all leagues have been postponed indefinitely.”

“This attack is a night of shame for Turkish football.”

He added: “Football matches are not war – in the end there is no death. Not all teams can become champions at the same time. We all need to understand that. We invite everyone to take responsibility.”

“[Ankaragucu] and its managers will be punished most severely.”

Buyukeksi said sanctions would be discussed in the relevant decision-making committees from Tuesday.

In a statement about what it called the “inhumane and despicable attack”, the TFF said: “The irresponsible comments made by club presidents, managers, coaches and television commentators towards referees today paved the way for this despicable attack.”

“In coordination with our state, all criminal proceedings have been initiated against those responsible for instigating this inhumane attack. The club, its president, its managers and all criminals who attacked Meler will be severely punished.”

Galatasaray, one of the country’s biggest teams, had earlier called an emergency meeting to give clubs a chance to address what they said was a growing problem in Turkish football.

“We must all come together today and act to resolve the issues we are involved in,” Galatasaray said in a statement.

The Association of Active Football Referees and Observers of Turkey called on all referees not to enter the pitch until changes are made, adding: “The violent attack on Meler was not only directed against our referee Halil Umut Meler, but against the entire refereeing community .”

The Turkish Süper Lig Professional Football Clubs Foundation condemned the attack and said the clubs were “ready to take all steps to prevent violent incidents.”

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