FILE PHOTO: Football Football – Super Lig – MKE Ankaragucu v Caykur Rizespor – Eryaman Stadium – Ankara, Turkey – December 11, 2023 MKE Ankaragucu president Faruk Koca reacts as referee Halil Umut Meler falls to the ground at the end of the Super Lig home match against Caykur Rizespor REUTERS/Abdurrahman Antakyali/Depo Photo/File Photo

ANKARA – The president of Turkish football club Ankaragucu, Faruk Koca, was arrested on Tuesday for punching a referee in the face at the end of a match, with the official telling police that Koca threatened to kill him.

The arrest followed an outbreak of violence during Super Lig club Ankaragucu's home game against Rizespor on Monday night.

Referee Halil Umut Meler, who was also kicked while lying on the field, said Koca also threatened him and his colleagues, state news agency Anadolu reported.

“Faruk Koca punched me under my left eye; I fell on the floor. While I was on the ground, other people kicked me many times in the face and other parts of the body,” he said.

“Koca said to me and my colleagues, 'I'm going to finish you off.' Addressing me, he said: 'I'm going to kill you'.”

The Turkish court that made the arrest decision also remanded two other suspects in the incident in custody.

“This incident developed due to poor decisions and provocative behavior by the referee. My objective was to react verbally to the referee and spit in his face,” Koca told the court, according to Demiroren News Agency.

The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) said it has suspended all leagues following the “disgraceful” incident in Ankara.

Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc said Koca and two others were formally arrested for “injuring a public official” after prosecutors took statements from them.

“The investigation continues meticulously,” he said on social media platform X, adding that judicial controls had been imposed on three other suspects.

Koca came onto the pitch and hit Meler as the final whistle blew after Rizespor had equalized 1-1 at the Eryaman Stadium in the 97th minute, footage showed.

The referee was lying in a hospital bed with a swollen face and a neck brace, images provided by the ministry showed.

“The bleeding in Meler’s left eye has started to subside” and there will be no permanent damage, said Mehmet Yorubulut, chief doctor at Acibadem hospital.

“The fracture there will gradually heal. There is no brain damage,” he said, adding that he will likely be discharged on Wednesday.

The club's president, Koca, was twice elected to Turkey's parliament as part of President Tayyip Erdogan's AK party.


After the match, images showed Ankaragucu fans invading the pitch and Meler was also kicked as he fell. He finally managed to get to the locker room with the help of the police.

The federation said Ankaragucu, its president, club officials and anyone found guilty of attacking the referee would be “punished in the strongest possible terms”.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino said the events that took place after the match were “totally unacceptable and have no place in our sport or society”.

“Without referees there is no football,” he added.

A FIFA referee since 2017, Meler, 37, took charge of Lazio's Champions League group stage game against Celtic on 28 November.

Referees in Turkey are often criticized by club managers and presidents for their decisions, but they are rarely the target of violent attacks.

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Ankaragucu are 11th in the standings with 18 points, three places below Rizespor with 22 points after 15 matches. It is unclear when Super Lig games will resume.



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