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Chaos in Turkish Football: League suspended as referee assaulted by Club President

Turkish football was thrown into disarray on Monday when a top-flight game between MKE Ankaragucu and Caykur Rizespor ended in shocking scenes of violence.

The match, which concluded in a dramatic 1-1 draw with a 97th-minute equalizer, took a dark turn when MKE Ankaragucu president Faruk Koca ran onto the pitch and punched referee Halil Umut Meler to the ground.

The aftermath of this unprecedented attack has led to the suspension of all football leagues in Turkey, with global condemnation from football authorities.

Following the last-minute equalizer, chaos erupted on the field as Faruk Koca assaulted referee Halil Umut Meler, leaving him on the turf with injuries, including a minor fracture.

The incident led to a series of violent confrontations involving players and club officials. Meler, a respected 37-year-old referee officiating international games for FIFA, was not the only victim, as others joined in attacking him.

Turkish Football Federation (TFF) chairman Mehmet Buyukeksi, in a press conference, declared an indefinite postponement of all league matches, calling the attack a “night of shame for Turkish football.”

FIFA president Gianni Infantino labeled the incident “totally unacceptable,” emphasizing the need for safety and security for all involved in the sport.

Faruk Koca required hospital treatment, and Turkey’s Minister of Internal Affairs, Ali Yerlikaya, announced that detention procedures would be carried out after his treatment.

Several others involved in the attack were also arrested. Yerlikaya strongly condemned the incident, pledging that those responsible would face severe legal consequences.

Image shows a Turkish league referee knocked to the ground after being punched by club president.
Referee Halil Umut Meler received several kicks after being knocked to the ground

MKE Ankaragucu expressed regret for their president’s actions, apologizing to the football community for the incident. Caykur Rizespor condemned the events, expressing support for Meler and conveying their wishes for his speedy recovery.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke out against the attack, emphasizing that sports should promote peace and brotherhood, condemning violence in Turkish sports. He wished referee Halil Umut Meler a swift recovery.

The TFF, taking a strong stance against the incident, pledged severe punishments for Ankaragucu and its management.

Chairman Buyukeksi emphasized that football matches are not a war and called on everyone to take responsibility. The penalties will be discussed in decision-making committees starting immediately.

Galatasaray, one of Turkey’s prominent football clubs, called for an emergency meeting to address the growing issue of violence in Turkish football.

The Association of Active Football Referees and Observers of Turkey urged all referees not to take the field, declaring the attack not only against Meler but the entire referee community.

The shocking attack on referee Halil Umut Meler has cast a dark shadow over Turkish football, prompting immediate and decisive actions from football authorities.

The incident serves as a stark reminder of the importance of ensuring the safety and security of everyone involved in the sport and calls for a united effort to eradicate violence from football in Turkey.