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Football World Stunned as Turkish Referee Gets Assaulted

The Turkish Super Lig, Turkey Football Federation, and football ecosystem, in general, have been left shell-shocked after a referee was assaulted in a league match. Leading to a series of events projected to have a long-lasting impact on a global scale.

The Turkish Super Lig, Turkey Football Federation, and football ecosystem, in general, have been left shell-shocked after a referee was assaulted in a league match. This led to a series of events projected to have a long-lasting impact on the league, country, and football world on a global scale.

Turkish Referee Gets Assaulted

Source: BBC

On December 11, 2023, a referee, Halil Umut Meler, was attacked after a draw in the football match in the Turkey Super Lig between Caykur Rizespor and MKE Ankaragucu. Ankaragucu had taken the lead early in the game in the 14th minute with a goal from midfielder Olimpiu Morutan but were pegged back late in the game by forward Adolfo Gaich’s spot-kick. All hell broke loose after the referee awarded Rizespor a dying-minute penalty in the 97th minute, to the end that he was assaulted. 

The late decision meant that Ankaragucu fell to the bottom half of the table to 11th position with 18 points, four behind Rizespor with 22 points at 8th. Such a play of events angered the president and fans of Ankaragucu, who then lashed out stupidly and violently at the referee.

Faruk Koca, the president of Ankaragucu, ran onto the pitch and swung an arm at Halil Umut Meler, the referee. Two stupid fans then followed suit and attacked him. Meler had to be taken to the dressing room with the help of the police as the assault had caused an uproar on the pitch, with more Ankaragucu fans storming the football pitch.

What Happened Next?

The guilty club, Ankaragucu, apologized to the footballing community two hours after the match concluded. Its official account on X (formerly called Twitter) posted a statement.

“As MKE Ankaragucu Sports Club, we are saddened by the incident this evening. We apologize to the Turkish football public and the entire sports community for the sad incident after the Caykur Rizespor match at Eryaman Stadium.” 

On Tuesday, the next day, a Turkish court called for the arrest of Koca and detained the other two assailants in prison. Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc disclosed that the latter were apprehended for violating a public official. 

He later said on X (formerly Twitter),

“The investigation is continuing meticulously.” 

There were talks that three further suspects would also have judicial controls levied on them.

Several hours later, the attack was criticized in a statement by the Turkish Football Federation (TFF). The President, Mehmet Buyukeksi, was effusive in his condemnation.

“We are following Halil Umut Meler’s health condition closely and wish our valuable referee a speedy recovery. This inhumane and despicable attack was made against all stakeholders of Turkish football.”

Furthermore, on a larger scale, the TFF blamed the doorstep of other stakeholders in the game.

“The irresponsible statements of club presidents, managers, coaches, and TV commentators targeting referees have paved the way for this vile attack today.”

They also called on the club, the club’s president, and criminal fans who attacked the referee to be punished sorely. 

“The responsible club, the club president, its managers, and all the criminals who attacked Halil Umut Meler will be punished most severely.”

What Impact Would it Have?

Source: The Telegraph

The Turkish Football Federation held an important meeting after the incident. Afterward, they decided to postpone all matches in the league indefinitely. 

Other eminent individuals also condemned the attack. Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan called out the attack and commiserated with the assaulted referee. He spoke of how sports should be a medium of peace and not an avenue for violence. FIFA President Gianni Infantino spoke against the violence and reiterated how essential referees are to the game. He further called on the relevant authorities to guarantee security at all levels of football.

It is unclear what chain of events this incident could spark, if any. In other European leagues, like the English Premier League, many coaches and players have recently been at loggerheads with referees. On several occasions, some teams have seen their players and coaches hit with fines for outbursts against the referees. In Turkey itself, referees are often criticized by club managers and executives, but violence against them isn’t a common trope.

Therefore, what is the future of referees in football like? How can their safety be guaranteed amidst evolution in football? It remains to be seen.

By- Bolu Ibosiola

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