Turkish leagues set to resume next week following attack on referee

The top soccer league in Turkey is set to resume play on Dec. 19 after a one-week suspension prompted by an on-field attack by a club president on a referee. The referee, who was hospitalized, was discharged with a swollen eye while the club president was arrested.

Turkish Football Federation (TFF) Chairman Mehmet Büyükekşi, accompanied by vice chairmen İbrahim Burkay and Yalçın Orhan, speaks during a news conference in Istanbul, Turkey Dec. 13, 2023. REUTERS/Dilara Senkaya


Turkey's top soccer league will resume play on Dec. 19 following a one-week suspension due to an on-field attack by a club president on a referee, who emerged from hospital on Dec. 13 with a swollen eye.

On Dec. 11 evening at the end of a Super Lig match, Ankaragücü club president Faruk Koca entered the pitch and punched referee Halil Umut Meler in the face. The official was then kicked while lying on the pitch covering his head.

Koca was arrested the next day and the soccer federation immediately halted all matches.

Turkish Football Federation chairman Mehmet Büyükekşi said on Dec. 13 it decided to resume league matches on Dec. 19.

"We will never allow attacks or disproportinate pressure on our referees. This incident needs to become a milestone, a turning point for Turkish football," Büyükekşi told reporters in Istanbul.

Meler, the referee, was released from an Ankara hospital with a swollen and darkened eye but no other health issues.

Büyükekşi said the federation's disciplinary committee would decide on Dec. 14 on the status of Ankaragücü.

Mehmet Yorubulut, chief doctor at Acıbadem hospital, said the head fracture he suffered would heal in time. "The bleeding in Meler's left eye has almost completely stopped," he added.

Koca was arrested for his attack on Meler, who was later quoted as telling police that Koca had also threatened to kill him during the incident.

When the final whistle blew, Koca entered the field and hit Meler after visiting club Rizespor scored a 97th minute equalizer in the 1-1 draw.

The federation said Ankaragücü, its chairman, club officials and all those guilty of attacking the referee will be "punished in the strongest terms possible."