Turkish leagues to resume next week following attack on referee

Halil Umut Meler
Turkish referee Halil Umut Meler greets media members as he leaves a hospital in Ankara. Photo: Reuters/Cagla Gurdogan

Ankara: Turkey's top soccer league will resume play on Tuesday next week following a one-week suspension due to an on-field attack by a club president on a referee, who emerged from hospital on Wednesday with a swollen eye.

On Monday evening at the end of a Super Lig match, Ankaragucu club president Faruk Koca entered the pitch and punched referee Halil Umut Meler in the face. The official was then kicked while lying on the pitch covering his head.

Koca was arrested the next day and the soccer federation immediately halted all matches.

Turkish Football Federation chairman Mehmet Buyukeksi said on Wednesday it decided to resume league matches on December 19.

"We will never allow attacks or disproportinate pressure on our referees. This incident needs to become a milestone, a turning point for Turkish football," Buyukeksi told reporters in Istanbul.

Meler, the referee, was released from an Ankara hospital on Wednesday with a swollen and darkened eye but no other health issues.

Mehmet Yorubulut, chief doctor at Acibadem hospital, said the head fracture he suffered would heal in time. "The bleeding in Meler's left eye has almost completely stopped," he added.

Koca was arrested on Tuesday for his attack on Meler, who was later quoted as telling police that Koca had also threatened to kill him during the incident.

When the final whistle blew, Koca entered the field and hit Meler after visiting club Rizespor scored a 97th minute equaliser in the 1-1 draw.

The federation said Ankaragucu, its chairman, club officials and all those guilty of attacking the referee will be "punished in the strongest terms possible".

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