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

12 December 2023, 09:35 | Updated: 12 December 2023, 10:05

Referee Halil Umut Meler was confronted by Faruk Koca
Referee Halil Umut Meler was confronted by Faruk Koca. Picture: Getty
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

A Turkish Super Lig referee who was battered to the ground by a club president before being kicked in the head has said 'it's my fault'.

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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.

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."

Professional football in Turkey has been suspended as a result.

The club president has now been arrested.

MKE Ankaragucu President Faruk Koca punches referee Halil Umut Meler
MKE Ankaragucu President Faruk Koca punches referee Halil Umut Meler. Picture: Getty
MKE Ankaragucu President Faruk Koca punches referee Halil Umut Meler
Halil Umut Meler was punched by MKE Ankaragucu President Faruk Koca. 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 then 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.

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"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."

Referee Halil Umut Meler's face swells after Faruk Koca, President of MKE Ankaragucu throws a punch at him
Referee Halil Umut Meler's face swells after Faruk Koca, President of MKE Ankaragucu throws a punch at him. Picture: Getty

Both Meler and Koca were subsequently taken to hospital, according to local media.

Turkey's Minister of Internal Affairs, Ali Yerlikaya, said that Koca was being treated under the supervision of security forces.

He said detention procedures would be carried out after the treatment.

Meler, 37, is on UEFA's elite list and has previously officiated in the UEFA Europa League. He also took charge of West Ham's Conference League semi-final first leg against AZ Alkmaar last season.

President Erdogan said in a statement: "I condemn the attack on referee Halil Umut Meler after the MKE Ankaragucu-Caykur Rizespor match played this evening, and I wish him a speedy recovery.

"Sports means peace and brotherhood. Sports are incompatible with violence. We will never allow violence to take place in Turkish sports."

Minister of Youth and Sports Osman Askin Bak also condemned the attack.

"I strongly condemn the attack on the referee of the match, Halil Umut Meler, at the end of the MKE Ankaragucu-Caykur Rizespor match," he tweeted.

"We do not want to see these images on our fields, which do not suit the spirit of sports and Turkish football."

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