Turkey’s top leagues have been halted after the president of MKE Ankaragucu punched the referee at the end of their Super Lig home match against Rizespor. Footage from the game showed Koca entering the field and hitting referee Halil Umut Meler when the final whistle blew after Rizespor scored a 97th-minute equalizer in the 1-1 draw at Eryaman Stadium on Monday. The TFF said it has acted on “a night of shame” for the nation’s soccer by suspending all leagues indefinitely. It added that the club, Koca, and others who attacked Meler will be punished most severely.
The TFF blamed the attack on a toxic culture toward referees that players and club officials fostered over the years. The federation has also called for an investigation into the incident. “The irresponsible statements of club presidents, managers, coaches, and TV commentators targeting referees paved the way for this vile incident,” the TFF said. “The TFF is conducting a meticulous inquiry, and a detention order has been issued for the perpetrators.”
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has strongly condemned the attack, calling sports about “peace and brotherhood.” He said referees must be protected. “Turkish football has been punched shamefully tonight,” he said, according to state broadcaster TRT. “Everyone involved in this crime will pay the price.”
TFF President Mehmet Buyukeksi said the governing body had decided to postpone games for the rest of the season after meeting in an emergency session on Tuesday. The TFF also said it would hold an extraordinary meeting to discuss the incident and that Ankaragucu, its president, and other club officials would be punished most severely.
Buyukeksi has demanded that a “zero tolerance policy” be applied to the incidents. “The TFF will take every measure to protect the integrity of the game in our country and make sure that there is no repeat of this disgraceful event.”
People were discussing the incident on X, a Turkish social media platform similar to Twitter. One user wrote: “Turkish football is a joke. they assaulted our player, and their president acted like he was in the right and hired lawyers to protect him.” Another person posted: “That fuck in the brown jacket, kicking him while he’s on the ground… what a disgusting shitstain of a human being.”
The TFF said it has “zero tolerance” for violence against referees and warned that the leagues will not resume until peace. Earlier, Meler received several blows from others as he lay on the turf and required hospital treatment for a minor fracture in his neck. He told police that his attacker threatened to kill him. The chief physician at the hospital where he was treated, Dr Mehmet Yorubulut, said he was not in any life-threatening condition. He did, however, suffer a minor injury to his eye and some blood around his face. The 37-year-old is a top Turkish referee and officiates international matches for Fifa.