A Turkish football club president has been arrested after punching a referee following a top-flight game on Monday.
MKE Ankaragucu president Faruk Koca ran onto the pitch and struck match official Halil Umut Meler after his team conceded a 97th-minute equaliser in a 1-1 draw with Caykur Rizespor.
Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc said Koca and two others were formally arrested for “injuring a public official”.
All Turkish league football has been suspended following the incident.
Fifa president Gianni Infantino said the incident was “totally unacceptable” and violence had “no place in our sport or society”.
“Without match officials there is no football,” he said. “Referees, players, fans and staff have to be safe and secure to enjoy the game, and I call on the relevant authorities to ensure that this is strictly implemented and respected at all levels.”
Tunc said Koca and two others had been arrested after prosecutors took statements and a judicial control decision had been imposed on three other suspects.
“The investigation is continuing meticulously,” he added.
Hosts Ankaragucu had taken an early lead in Monday night’s Super Lig match before they had a player sent off after 50 minutes. Caykur equalised late on after also having a player sent off, and chaotic scenes followed the final whistle.
Having been knocked to the ground, Meler received several blows as he lay on the turf, suffering injuries including a small facial fracture.
He was pictured on Tuesday lying in a hospital bed with a swollen face and wearing a neck brace.
Mehmet Yorubulut, chief doctor of Acibadem hospital, said Meler had not suffered any brain damage and was likely to be discharged on Wednesday.
“The bleeding in Meler’s left eye started to decrease,” said Yorubulut, who added there would be no permanent damage.
Meler, 37, is one of Turkey’s top referees and officiates international games for Fifa. He is also on Uefa’s elite referee list.
Koca, 59, was twice elected to Turkey’s parliament as part of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party.
Erdogan spoke to Meler in hospital and said the incident had “saddened and disturbed” him.
He had earlier said: “Sports means peace and brotherhood. Sport is incompatible with violence. We will never allow violence to take place in Turkish sports.”
What has been the reaction?
Ankaragucu expressed regret following their president’s actions, saying in a statement: “We are saddened by the incident.
“We apologise to the Turkish football public and the entire sports community for the sad incident that occurred after the Caykur Rizespor match at Eryaman Stadium.”
Caykur Rizespor sent a message of support to Meler and said: “We strongly condemn the undesirable events that occurred after the Ankaragucu match.
“We convey our wishes to the entire referee community, especially the referee of the match, Halil Umut Meler, to get well soon.”
In a news conference on Monday night, Turkish FA [TFF] chairman Mehmet Buyukeksi said: “The matches in all leagues have been postponed indefinitely.
“This attack is a night of shame for Turkish football.”
He added: “Football matches are not a war – there is no death at the end. Not all teams can become champions at the same time. We all need to understand this. We invite everyone to take responsibility.
“[Ankaragucu] and its managers will be punished most severely.”
Buyukeksi said sanctions would be discussed in the relevant decision-making committees, starting on Tuesday.
In a statement on what it called the “inhumane and despicable attack”, the TFF said: “The irresponsible statements of club presidents, managers, coaches and TV commentators targeting referees have paved the way for this vile attack today.
“In coordination with our State, all the criminal proceedings have begun to be implemented against those responsible who instigated this inhumane attack. The club, its president, its managers and all criminals who attacked Meler will be punished in the most severe way.”
Galatasaray, one of the country’s biggest teams, had earlier called for an emergency meeting to allow clubs to address what they say is a growing issue in the Turkish game.
“We must all come together today and act to solve the problems we are a part of,” read a Galatasaray statement.
The Association of Active Football Referees and Observers of Turkey called on all referees not to take the pitch until changes are made, adding: “The violent attack on Meler was not only against our referee Halil Umut Meler but also against the entire referee community.”
The Turkish Super Lig Professional Football Clubs’ Foundation condemned the attack and said clubs were “ready to take all steps to prevent violent incidents”.
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