Turkish football has been left reeling after the president of Ankaragucu, Faruk Koca, punched referee Halil Umut Meler in the face following their Super Lig home match against Rizespor. The incident occurred after Rizespor scored a 97th-minute equalizer on Monday in the 1-1 draw at Eryaman Stadium. Ankaragucu fans invaded the pitch after the game, with Meler also kicked when he fell, though it was unclear who his assailants were. Meler eventually made it to the dressing room with the help of the police.
The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) has suspended all leagues indefinitely, calling the incident a night of “shame” for the nation’s football. The federation has vowed to punish the related club, club chairman, club officials, and all those guilty of attacking referee Umut Meler in the strongest terms possible.
The incident has sparked outrage in Turkey, with many calling for swift action against those responsible. A detention order has been issued for Koca, and Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya has stated that two people have already been detained as part of a judicial investigation into the incident. FIFA referee Meler, who has been officiating since 2017, had previously taken charge of Lazio’s Champions League group game with Celtic on Nov. 28.
The incident has raised questions about the safety of referees in Turkish football and the need for increased security measures. The TFF has stated that it will take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of referees and players in the future. However, some are calling for more drastic measures, such as the use of video assistant referees (VAR) to prevent incidents like this from happening again.
The incident has also raised concerns about the state of Turkish football more broadly. Turkish football has been plagued by violence and corruption in recent years, with match-fixing scandals and hooliganism becoming increasingly common. Many are calling for a complete overhaul of the system, with more transparency and accountability needed to restore the public’s faith in the sport.
Overall, the incident has highlighted the need for greater respect for referees and to ensure their safety on the pitch. It remains to be seen what actions the TFF will take in the aftermath of the incident and whether they will successfully restore the public’s faith in Turkish football.