BREAKING NEWS Battered and bruised Turkish referee is discharged from hospital with ‘swelling’ and a ‘small fracture’ after he was viciously punched by team’s president and kicked on the floor in match that shut down Turkish football
- Ankaragucu president Faruk Koca punched referee Halil Umut Meler on Monday
- After being put in a neck brace in hospital, the official has now been released
- Have you witnessed abuse of referees? Contact [email protected]
A Turkish referee who was punched by a club president and then kicked in the head on the ground has been discharged from hospital.
Turkish football descended into chaos – on a night the nation’s media labelled as a ‘night of shame’ – on Monday when MKE Ankaragucu president Faruk Koca launched the vicious attack on referee Halil Umut Meler after his side drew 1-1 against Caykur Rizespor in the Super Lig.
Meler was pictured battered and bruised and wearing a neck brace in hospital on Tuesday but following a series of additional tests, he was discharged on Wednesday morning.
Pictures showed Meler waving to a crowd gathered outside the hospital’s entrance, still sporting a black eye on his left side.
Speaking after discharging Meler, Ankara hospital’s chief physician had a parting message: ‘He is in good spirits. He will have controls wherever he goes [next]. He has no problem except for a small swelling under his eye.
‘We put on a neck brace for precautionary purposes. The [cheek] fracture will heal in time, it was a small fracture anyway. There is no more bleeding.’
Turkish referee Halil Umut Meler was released from Ankara hospital on Wednesday morning
The match official sported a shining black eye following the vicious attack on Monday night
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the stricken referee in hospital on Tuesday
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Turkey has been totally rocked by the incident, with the league set for a week-long suspension.
Shocking images of the on-pitch sucker-punch showed president Koca’s fist connecting with Meler’s cheek beneath his left eye, sending the official to the ground. Others then laid into him with a series of kicks as he curled up on the grass covering his face.
Fans also invaded the pitch after Rizespor scored an equaliser seven minutes into eight minutes of injury time, prompting police to escort the referee to safety.
CNN Türk Istanbul News Director Nihat Uludag detailed on air how two of those who have been detained for kicking the referee in the head gained entry to the match via VIP tickets. Both fans are said to be ‘known’ to the club as they now are the subject of police enquiries.
Despite being on the receiving end of the attack, Turkish media reported Meler as saying ‘Thank you, it’s my fault’ to the police as he exited.
It was not immediately clear whether Meler was apologising for the large amount of injury time or the sending off of two players. The match featured eight minutes of injury time and a red card for each side, with Rizespor defender Emirhan Topçu sent off in the 95th minute, two minutes before the equalising goal.
It is understood that the referee was left with a cheek fracture, while Koca – who is reported to have heart problems – was hospitalised as a precaution, but would later taken into custody following treatment, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said.
The Turkish Football Federation swiftly announced it was suspending all league games indefinitely after an emergency meeting held to discuss the violence.
‘This attack is unfortunate and shameful in the name of football,’ federation chief Mehmet Buyukeksi said after the meeting.
‘We say enough is enough,’ he added, insisting that all involved in the violence would be punished.
The moment that the fist of Faruk Koca, president of top-flight football club, connects with the face of referee Halil Umut Meler after a Turkish Super Lig match on Monday evening
The MKE Ankaragucu president launched the vicious attack (pictured) on referee Meler after his side drew 1-1 against Caykur Rizespor in the Super Lig
Abhorrent scenes started when the president of Ankaragucu punched the referee in the face
Buyukeksi also blamed the attack on a culture of contempt toward referees in Turkey.
‘Everyone who has targeted referees and encouraged them to commit crimes is complicit in this despicable attack,’ he said.
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‘The irresponsible statements of club presidents, managers, coaches and television commentators targeting referees have opened the way for this attack.’
Turkish President Erdogan also condemned the attack.
‘Sports means peace and brotherhood. The sport is incompatible with violence. We will never allow violence to take place in Turkish sports,’ he wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
FIFA President Gianni 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. ‘Referees, players, fans and staff have to be safe and secure to enjoy the game, and I call on the relevant authorities to ensure that this is strictly implemented and respected at all levels.’
Galatasaray president Dursun Aydın Ozbek said on Tuesday: ‘Such things [like the attack on the referee] should not happen.
‘These incidents, which especially damage the brand value of Turkish football and the image of Turkish football abroad, cause great damage to football.
The match official was sent crashing to the ground after the punch and sustained a black eye
Meler looked to protect his face after the punch while other individuals kicked him on the floor
A group of players, officials and security guards formed a protective huddle around Meler, who could be seen sporting a swollen eye in the moments shortly after the shocking attack
Mail Sport has launched a campaign to stop the abuse of referees at all levels of the game
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‘I was shocked. Why did the president and his friends attack a referee like that? Why do they kick the referee on the ground? It is not possible to understand.
‘In the following period, the leagues have been suspended, but the Turkish Football Federation, the Union of Clubs and all the clubs will come together and we will do our best to end this somehow and to prevent these incidents from developing in the following period.’
The unsavoury scenes were captured from multiple angles by photographers and on the live broadcast of the Turkish Super Lig match – the top flight of Turkish football.
The match finished 1-1 after Rizespor netted the last-gasp equaliser against Ankaragucu, who had been poised to win the match with an early opening goal.
However, the goal in the 97th minute of the 98-minute match saw the clash conclude in a draw – moments before the shocking twist of violence.
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