Former president of Turkish soccer club banned for life for punching referee

Faruk Koca, the former president of top-flight Turkish soccer club Ankaragücü, has been banned from football for life following his attack on a referee, the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) announced Thursday.

Following the 1-1 draw between Ankaragücü and Rizespor on Monday night, Koca ran onto the field and punched referee Halil Umut Meler in the face.

The Turkish Professional Football Disciplinary Board also ordered Ankaragücü to play five home games without any fans in attendance and issued the club with a fine of 2,000,000 Turkish lira – approximately $69,000.

Meler says Koca punched him in the face under his left eye. Meler says he then fell to the ground where he was kicked by two others, according to a statement published by Turkey’s state-run news agency Anadolu.

“Faruk Koca, said to me [and the other officials], ‘I will finish you.’ Addressing me, he said, ‘I will kill you,’” Meler told Anadolu.

The referee was sent to hospital following the attack and was discharged on Wednesday. For his part in the attack, Koca was handed a five-year suspension but because the penalty exceeds three years, it will serve as a ban for life. He resigned from his role as president of Ankaragücü on Tuesday.

Yılmaz Tunç, the Turkish Minister of Justice, said on X that the three individuals who attacked the referee have been “arrested for the crime of, ‘injuring, on a sports field in a way that resulted in a fracture, [of] a public official who was performing their public duty.’”

Koca is among the three people arrested, per Tunç. Koca, however, has refuted the claims, saying he only “slapped” Meler in the face.

FIFA official Pierluigi Collina reiterated his view that physical and verbal abuse against referees is a “cancer that may cost football its life” following the incident.

Soccer in Turkey is set to resume Tuesday, Mehmet Büyükekşi, the president of the Turkish Football Federation, announced at a press conference Wednesday.

The Turkish Football Federation had indefinitely postponed matches in all of the country’s leagues following an attack on referee Halil Umut Meler on Monday.

Source: CNN

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