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Turkish Football Club President Arrested for Assaulting Referee

ANKARA–The president of top tier Turkish football club Ankaragucu, Faruk Koca, was arrested on Tuesday for punching a referee in the face at the end of a match. The official, Halil Umut Meler, told police that Koca had threatened to kill him. The incident followed an outbreak of violence during Super Lig club Ankaragucu’s home match against Rizespor on Monday evening.

Koca punched referee Meler under his left eye, causing him to fall to the ground. While on the ground, Meler was kicked in the face by other people. Koca also made death threats against Meler and his colleagues. Video footage showed that Koca entered the field and hit Meler at the end of the match, after Rizespor scored a 97th minute equaliser in the 1-1 draw at Eryaman Stadium.

The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) suspended all leagues following the “shameful” incident in Ankara. Koca and two others were arrested for “injuring a public official,” while three other suspects are under judicial controls. The federation vowed to punish Ankaragucu, its chairman, and all those guilty of attacking the referee in the strongest terms possible.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino condemned the violence, stating that such events have no place in sports or society. He emphasized the importance of match officials in football. Meler, who was left with a swollen face and neck brace, is expected to be discharged from the hospital and suffer no permanent damage.

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

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