Turkish football has been plunged into chaos after MKE Ankaragucu President Faruk Koca punched referee Halil Meler following the club’s 1-1 draw with Caykur Rizespor in the Super Lig.
The incident has led to the Turkish Football Federation suspending all leagues indefinitely. TFF chairman Mehmet Buyukeksi called the attack “a night of shame for Turkish football” and emphasised that “sports means peace and brotherhood. Sport is incompatible with violence.”
The incident has drawn widespread condemnation with FIFA President Gianni Infantino calling it “totally unacceptable” and stating that “violence has no place in our sport or society.” Similarly, Turkey President Recep Erdogan condemned the attack and wished Meler a speedy recovery.
Mr Meler sustained several blows and suffered a minor fracture. He required hospital treatment, and his recovery is being monitored closely.
MKE Ankaragucu regretted the incident and apologised to the Turkish football community. Caykur Rizespor also condemned the violence and sent Mr Meler a message of support.
The TFF has vowed to take decisive action against Koca and Ankaragucu. Buyukeksi stated that “football matches are not a war” and that “(Ankaragucu) and its managers will be punished most severely.” He added that the penalties will be determined in the coming days.
The TFF further emphasised that the attack was not an isolated incident and blamed “the irresponsible statements of club presidents, managers, coaches and TV commentators targeting referees” for creating a climate of violence. They also called for criminal proceedings against all involved.
Galatasaray, one of Turkey’s biggest clubs, called for an emergency meeting to address the growing issue of violence in Turkish football. Similarly, the Association of Active Football Referees and Observers of Turkey called on all referees to refuse to officiate matches until their safety is guaranteed.
The attack on Mr Meler has exposed deep-seated problems within Turkish football. The coming days will be crucial in determining how the TFF and the clubs will address the issue and ensure the safety of referees and players.