Turkish referee punched by club president leaves hospital

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The referee punched by a club president in Turkey has left hospital, with the country’s football association saying that the sport will resume after a week-long suspension on December 19.

Faruk Koca, president of Super Lig side MKE Ankaragucu, raced onto the field and hit referee Halil Umut Meler after a draw against Caykur Rizespor on Monday. Koca was arrested on Tuesday, with matches across Turkey temporarily put on hold amid the fallout from the incident.

Meler was left with what Mehmet Yorubulut, chief doctor at Acibadem hospital, said was “bleeding around his left eye and a small fracture,” but the referee was pictured leaving the facility on Wednesday and Yorubulut said: “The bleeding in Meler’s left eye has almost completely stopped.”

Turkish FA (TFF) chairman Mehmet Buyukeksi told reporters on Wednesday that the league would resume on Tuesday, December 19 and said the TFF’s disciplinary committee would decide on Thursday on the status of Ankaragucu, adding that a “zero tolerance” approach would be shown towards attacks on referees.

Buyukeksi also dismissed speculation that Meler was considering quitting refereeing and said there was “full expectation” he would officiate in next summer’s European Championship finals in Germany.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Association of Active Football Referees and Observers of Turkey called on all referees not to take the field, adding: “The violent attack was not only against our referee Halil Umut Meler but also against the entire referee community.”

Representatives of the referees’ union, Arda Kardesler and Mete Kalkavan, said that Turkish officials “will not play the matches unless radical and quick decisions are made.” The union did not immediately provide an update after Buyukeksi addressed the media.

Referee Halil Umut Meler is pictured with a swollen eye (Getty Images)

In a statement released by Ankaragucu on Tuesday afternoon, Koca resigned from his role as club president “in order to prevent further damage to the Ankaragucu club, Ankaragucu fans, the community I am in and my family”. Koca also apologised to Meler and Turkey as a nation for his actions.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino issued a statement strongly condemning the incident.

“There is absolutely no place for violence in football, on or off the field,” Infantino said. “Without match officials there is no football. Referees, players, fans and staff have to be safe and secure to enjoy the game, and I call on the relevant authorities to ensure that this is strictly implemented and respected at all levels.”

Pierluigi Collina, chairman of FIFA’s referees committee, called attacks on officials “a cancer” that will “kill football” without decisive action.

“A referee cannot be beaten because of a decision they took, even if it’s wrong,” he said in a statement, adding: “It is a responsibility for all those who love the ‘beautiful game’ to take action and do something. Before it’s too late, before this cancer will kill football.”

Meler, aged 37, is one of Turkey’s top referees, having overseen international matches for FIFA. He holds a position on UEFA’s elite referee list and took charge of Lazio’s Champions League group game against Celtic on November 28.

MKE Ankaragucu are 11th in the Super Lig table with 18 points, trailing three places behind Caykur Rizespor, who sit on 22 points after 15 matches.

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(Photo: Adem Altan/AFP via Getty Images)

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