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Turkish Soccer Suspended After Team President Sucker-Punches Referee

Faruk Koca, President of MKE Ankaragucu throws a punch to the referee Halil Umut Meler after the Turkish Super Lig week 15 soccer match between MKE Ankaragucu and Rizespor at Eryaman Stadium in Ankara, Turkiye on December 11, 2023. The match ended 1-1.
Emin Sansar/Anadolu via Getty Images

The list of hypothetical events that would have to occur in order for a country's professional soccer leagues to be put on immediate hiatus is short and tragic—pandemics, terrorist attacks, things of that nature. On Monday, one such occurrence moved from the realm of the hypothetical to the actual when the president of a team in Turkey's top division rushed onto the field after a match and socked the referee right in the face.

I mean, he really punched him. Look at this!

The guy doing the punching is Faruk Koca, the president of Turkish Super Lig side MKE Ankaragucu. The reason he's doing the punching, aside from apparently being an unstable wacko, is that his team had just finished a game against Rizespor, which ended in a 1-1 draw after Rizespor scored an equalizer in the 97th minute. Ankaragucu had a first-half goal ruled out after a VAR review determined that the ball had struck an Ankaragucu player's hand in the build-up, and then lost forward Ali Sowe after he was sent off with two first-half yellow cards.The guy who handed out those cards, and later got punched for it, is Halil Umut Meler, one of Turkey's top referees, who has presided over international matches for FIFA and Champions League matches for UEFA.

Meler was taken to the hospital for treatment after the game and subsequently released. Police issued an arrest warrant for Koca and another man who kicked Meler while he was on the ground. Turkish FA president Mehmet Buyukeksi held a press conference after the game, where he announced that play in all of Turkey's professional leagues has been postponed indefinitely. Buyukeksi called the incident a "night of shame" for Turkish soccer and promised that Koca would face the "most severe" punishment.

Update (11:35 a.m. ET): Koca has resigned from his position as president of MKE Ankaragucu.

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