Turkish football club president resigns after punching Super Lig referee in the face

12 December 2023, 17:43

The Turkish football club president has resigned
The Turkish football club president has resigned. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Jenny Medlicott

Faruk Koca has quit as club president after he attacked Super Lig referee Halil Umut Meler on the pitch.

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Referee Halil Umut Meler was punched in the face by Faruk Koca, the president of Turkish Super Lig club MKE Ankaragucu, after his side drew with Rizespor, leaving the ref with a fractured eye socket.

President Faruk Koca, who has also been arrested, announced his resignation from Super Lig club MKE Ankaragucu on Tuesday.

He said in a statement on the club’s website: “I would like to announce to the public that I have resigned from the MKE Ankaragucu Presidency in order to prevent any further harm to the Ankaragucu club, Ankaragucu fans, the community I am in and my family.

“I hope that this incident, which I, more than anyone else, cannot accept, will be a reason for our sports life, especially our football community, to be purified from mistakes, shortcomings and the culture of violence.

“At the same time, I hope that the structural problems of Turkish football will be discussed more realistically due to this grave incident that I caused.

“I would like to take this opportunity to apologize again to everyone I have upset, especially Ankaragucu fans.

“I would like it to be known that I am deeply saddened that both the club I manage, the football community, and our country are remembered with such an event and image.”

Read more: Turkish Super Lig referee recovers in hospital in neck brace after he was punched by club president after league match

Read more: Turkish Super Lig referee says 'it's my fault' after he's beaten up by club president and then kicked in the head

MKE Ankaragucu President Faruk Koca punches referee Halil Umut Meler.
MKE Ankaragucu President Faruk Koca punches referee Halil Umut Meler. Picture: Getty

FIFA President Gianni Infantino condemned the act in a statement.

He said: “There is absolutely no place for violence in football, on or off the field.

“Events following the Turkish Super Lig match between MKE Ankaragucu and Caykur Rizespor are totally unacceptable and have no place in our sport or society.

“Without match officials there is no football. 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.”

Professional football in Turkey has been suspended across the entire country following the incident.

It comes after referee Meler was seen for the first time since the brutal attack, as he was seen lying in hospital wearing a neck brace.

He was visited by the Turkish interior minister, Ali Yerlikaya, who wished the referee a "speedy recovery".

Despite being on the receiving end of the attack, Meler said as he left the stadium to well wishes: "Thank you, it's my fault."

Meler had sent off one player from each side, then allowed an equaliser in the seventh minute of injury time to force a 1-1 draw.

Koca was seen punching Meler to the ground before he was kicked in the head.

Players and staff from both sides were quick to surround the pair and stop the attack, with Meler being helped up from the ground and rescued by cops.

The Turkish Football Federation has since announced that domestic football will be suspended indefinitely.

In a statement, it blamed the "despicable attack" on a years-long toxic culture towards referees that it said had been fostered by many players and club officials.

"The irresponsible statements of club presidents, managers, coaches and TV commentators targeting referees have paved the way for this vile attack today," said the TFF.

"In coordination with our State, all the criminal proceedings they deserve have begun to be implemented against those responsible and instigators of this inhumane attack.

"The responsible club, its president, its managers and all criminals who attacked Meler will be punished in the most severe way.

"By the decision of the TFF Board of Directors, matches in all leagues have been postponed indefinitely."

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