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Turkish football leagues halted after club president punches referee in the face

Ankara: The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) has suspended all leagues on a night of “shame” for the nation’s soccer after Ankaragucu’s president Faruk Koca punched the referee in the face at the end of their Super Lig home match against Rizespor.

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

Ankaragucu fans invaded the pitch after the game and Meler was also kicked when he fell, though it was unclear who his assailants were. Meler eventually made it to the dressing room with the help of the police.

“The Turkish Football Federation has decided to suspend all games in all leagues indefinitely,” the federation posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“The related club, the club chairman, club officials and all those guilty of attacking referee Umut Meler will be punished in the strongest terms possible.”

A detention order has been issued for Koca, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said in a post on X, adding that two people have already been detained as part of a judicial investigation into the incident.

“Turkish football has been punched shamefully tonight. Everyone involved in this incident will pay the price,” TFF Chairman Mehmet Buyukeksi said, according to TRT.

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

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tweeted: “Sport means peace and brotherhood. Sport is incompatible with violence. We will never allow violence to take place in Turkish sports.”

Referees in Turkey are often criticised by club managers and presidents for their 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, 04:51 IST)

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