Turkish Soccer League Halts Games After Attack on Referee

The punch landed only seconds after the referee Halil Umut Meler blew his whistle to end Monday night’s game in Turkey’s top soccer league. The first kick, and then the second, came after that, as the referee lay on the grass, desperately trying to protect his head with both hands.

Within hours, the referee was in the hospital, the team president who threw the punch was arrested and all matches in Turkey had been suspended indefinitely.

The chaos erupted at the end of a match in Turkey’s top division, the Super Lig, between Ankaragucu and Çaykur Rizespor in Ankara, and amid a scene that wasn’t necessarily unusual in a league known for its hothouse stadium atmospheres. The game had been a feisty affair, with two ejections and a dramatic finish: a last-minute goal by the visitors, Rizespor, that denied the home team a much-needed victory.

Within moments, and as Ankaragucu officials and fans entered the field following the final whistle, Meler was rushed by a group of angry Ankaragucu officials, led by the club’s president, Faruk Koca. Approaching the referee and his assistants from the sideline, Koca threw a punch that landed on the left side of Meler’s face, knocking him to the ground. Other team officials quickly surrounded the fallen referee, aiming kicks to his body and head as he tried to protect himself.

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