Battered Turkish referee Halil Umut Meler discharged from hospital with 'small fracture' after being punched in the face

13 December 2023, 12:45

Halil Umut Meler has been discharged from hospital with a broken bone in his face
Halil Umut Meler has been discharged from hospital with a broken bone in his face. Picture: Getty

By Kit Heren

Turkish Super Lig referee Halil Umut Meler has been discharged from hospital with a "small fracture" after being punched in the face on the pitch.

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Meler was attacked by Faruk Koca, the president of Turkish Super Lig club MKE Ankaragucu, after his side drew with Rizespor on Monday.

The referee was later pictured in a hospital bed wearing a neck brace. He was let out of hospital on Wednesday morning, looking battered and bruised, and waved to the crowds outside.

Ankara hospital's chief physician Mehmet Yörübulut said that Meler was "in good spirits".

He added: "He will have controls wherever he goes [next]. He has no problem except for a small swelling under his eye.

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

Turkish football referee Halil Umut Meler discharged from hospital
Turkish football referee Halil Umut Meler being discharged from hospital. Picture: Getty

"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."

Koca's wild attack on Meler appeared to be followed by several more kicks from others. Despite being on the receiving end, he said as he left the stadium to well-wishers: "Thank you, it's my fault."

All Turkish football was suspended indefinitely following the incident. FIFA president Gianni Infantino was among those who condemned the attack.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and interior minister Ali Yerlikaya visited Meler in hospital and wished him a "speedy recovery".

Turkish football referee Halil Umut Meler discharged from hospital
Turkish football referee Halil Umut Meler being discharged from hospital. Picture: Getty

Koca has been arrested. He also 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.

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

“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.”

Infantino 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.”

Halil Umut Meler
Halil Umut Meler. Picture: Getty

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 police.

The Turkish Football Federation blamed the "despicable attack" on a years-long toxic culture towards referees that it said had been fostered by many players and club officials.

Faruk Koca has been arrested and resigned as president of MKE Ankaragucu
Faruk Koca has been arrested and resigned as president of MKE Ankaragucu. Picture: Getty

"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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