Turkish Football Club’s President Assaults Referee

(RepublicanJournal.org) – The president of one of Turkey’s top football teams has been arrested after a dispute with the referee got out of control. Faruk Koca, who heads up MKE Ankaragucu, disagreed with the referee’s decisions after his team failed to win a match. The disagreement ended up with both men in the hospital and two fans arrested.

On December 11, MKE Ankaragucu, one of the Turkish capital’s two top-division teams, faced off against Caykur Rizespor in a Super Lig match. With just minutes to go, the Ankara team was leading one to nothing — but then Rizespor scored an equalizer. That’s just the way it goes sometimes, but Ankaragucu’s outraged president stormed onto the pitch to confront referee Halil Umut Meler over some of his decisions during the game. As fans also invaded the pitch, Koca punched Meler in the face, knocking him to the ground; after he fell he was kicked by several fans.

Meler suffered a minor skull fracture in the fight, and was taken to the hospital, but was expected to be released within days. Koca was also hospitalized, apparently over fears he was at risk of suffering a heart attack. He was arrested on charges of injuring a public official. Two fans were also arrested for kicking Meler and three more were released but ordered to report to the police regularly.

Koca resigned as MKE Ankaragucu’s president shortly after his arrest but denies having injured Meler. He claims the referee provoked him and, in response, he slapped his face. However, footage of the incident clearly shows him slamming his fist into the 37-year-old referee’s face.

In response, the Turkish Football Federation suspended all league games. Federation president Mehmet Buyukeksi called the attack “unfortunate and shameful,” and promised that everyone involved in the assault would be punished. He also slammed a “culture of contempt” towards referees in Turkish football, and blamed clubs and TV commentators for turning the officials into targets. Meler certainly doesn’t seem to feel appreciated; he’s now considering quitting his job.

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