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Turkish football club president arrested for punching referee

Istanbul: ATurkishcourt on Tuesday ordered thearrestof AnkaragucupresidentFaruk Kocaforpunchingarefereein the face at the end of a Super Lig match, and also remanded in custody two other suspects over the violence, the justice minister said.

TheTurkishFootball Federation (TFF) said it had suspended all leagues after the “shameful” incident when KocapunchedrefereeHalil Umut Meler, who was in charge of Ankaragucu’s home match against Rizespor on Monday.

Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc said Koca and two others were formallyarrestedfor”injuring a public official” after prosecutors took statements from them.

“The investigation is continuing meticulously,” Tunc said on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter. A decision was made to impose judicial controls on three further suspects.

Koca entered the field and hit Meler when the final whistle blew after Rizespor scored a 97th minute equaliser in the 1-1 draw at Eryaman Stadium, footage from state broadcaster TRT showed.

Ankaragucu fans invaded the pitch after the game and Meler was also kicked when he fell. He eventually made it to the dressing room with the help of the police.

The federation said Ankaragucu, its chairman,clubofficials and all those guilty of attacking therefereewill be “punished in the strongest terms possible”.

FIFAPresidentGianni Infantino said the events that took place after the match were “totally unacceptable and have no place in our sport or society”.

“Without match officials there is no football,” he added.

A FIFArefereesince 2017, 37-year-old Meler took charge of Lazio’s Champions League group game with Celtic on Nov. 28.

TurkishPresidentTayyip Erdogan said on X that sport is “incompatible with violence”, and “We will never allow violence to take place inTurkishsports.”

Refereesin Turkey are often criticised byclubmanagers andpresidentsfortheir decisions but are rarely the target of violent attacks.

Ankaragucu are 11th in the standings on 18 points, three places below Rizespor on 22 points after 15 matches.

(Published 12 December 2023, 10:22 IST)

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