The ‘barbaric’ attack on a top flight referee has been slammed as the ‘darkest night in Turkish football history’ on its country’s front pages.
The president of a top-flight Turkish football club sparked fury on Monday night after running onto the pitch following a draw and punching a referee in the face.
With Turkey as a country stunned at the attack, the Super Lig has been suspended indefinitely.
The front page of Milliyet ran the headline ‘Night of Shame’, accompanied by a picture of the attack on referee Halil Umut Meler.
Follow up words added: ‘Turkish football had the darkest night in its history yesterday.’
Turkey’s front pages reacted to ‘night of shame’ as a football referee was punched in the face
The moment that the fist of Faruk Koca, president of top-flight football club, connects with the face of referee Halil Umut Meler after a Turkish Super Lig match on Monday evening
Abhorrent scenes started when the president of Ankaragucu punched the referee in the face
Meler collapsed to the ground after he was struck by Koca after the conclusion of the 1-1 draw
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Turkiye ran the headline: ‘The Big Disgrace’, accompanied by a picture of one of the punches.
Abhorrent images showed president Faruk Koca’s fist connecting with the referee’s cheek just beneath his left eye, sending the official falling to the ground.
Others then laid into him with a series of kicks as he curled up on the ground covering his face.
A large crowd of players, coaching staff and security were quick to race to the scene and stop the attack, with the shaken Meler eventually helped to his feet. After being led away, he was seen sporting a swollen eye.
The shocking scenes, which have been condemned by the country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, began at the end of a match that finished 1-1.
Fans, as well as club officials, invaded the pitch after Rizespor scored a 97th-minute equaliser, prompting police to escort the referee to safety.
But despite being on the receiving end of the attack, Turkish media reported Meler as saying ‘Thank you, it’s my fault’ as he exited.
Koca stormed onto the pitch after his side’s draw against Rizespor and assaulted the official
Meler looked to protect his face after the punch while other individuals kicked him on the floor
Koca could be seen walking away after the confrontation as others tried to speak to him
It is understood that the referee was left with a cheek fracture, while Koca – who is reported to have heart problems – was hospitalised as a precaution, but would later be taken into custody following treatment, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said.
Later, it was reported that Koca – who registered a blood pressure of 190 – had been sent to an Ankara courthouse along with six others involved in the incident. Turkey’s Spor Arena news outlet said Koca and three others were officially arrested.
‘This attack is unfortunate and shameful in the name of football,’ federation chief Mehmet Buyukeksi said after the meeting.
‘We say enough is enough,’ he added, insisting that all involved in the violence would be punished.’
Buyukeksi also blamed the attack on a culture of contempt toward referees in Turkey.
‘Everyone who has targeted referees and encouraged them to commit crimes is complicit in this despicable attack,’ he said.
‘The irresponsible statements of club presidents, managers, coaches and television commentators targeting referees have opened the way for this attack.’
Mail Sport has launched a campaign to stop the abuse of referees at all levels of the game