Ex-Ankaragücü president Faruk Koca under fire for assaulting referee

The incident involving Faruk Koca, a prominent Turkish politician, businessman, sports manager, and former president of MKE Ankaragücü, has ignited a firestorm on the internet. Koca, who served as Ankaragücü’s president from June 2021 until December 12, 2023, and as a deputy of the Turkish Grand National Assembly from November 14, 2002, until April 23, 2011, is now embroiled in controversy for physically assaulting a referee.

Koca, who received the Fair Play President/Manager Award from the Turkish Football Federation in October 2022, has notched another, albeit less honourable, milestone. Footage of Koca attacking referee Halil Umut Meler during a recent Turkish Super Lig game has spread like wildfire across various social media platforms including Twitter and TikTok.

Meler, who was officiating Ankaragücü’s match against Rizespor, was the unfortunate recipient of Koca’s ire. Reports suggest that the assault occurred after Ankaragücü, despite leading the early stages of the game, had a player dismissed and subsequently conceded a late equaliser to Caykur Rizespor. Frustrations boiled over into chaos after the final whistle, culminating in the now-infamous incident.

The footage, which shows Meler being knocked down and assaulted while on the ground, has resulted in online backlash against Koca. Meler sustained injuries, including a small facial fracture, as a result of the attack.

In the aftermath of the incident, Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc announced that Koca and two others were arrested. FIFA President Gianni Infantino condemned the assault, stating that such violence has no place in football or society. The investigation on the case is ongoing, according to Tunc.

Following the incident, Koca resigned from his position as club president. In a subsequent statement, he expressed his deep remorse and embarrassment for the ‘serious incident’, hoping that it would serve as a wake-up call for Turkish football to tackle its ‘culture of violence’.

Referee Meler, who was photographed in a hospital bed with a swollen face and wearing a neck brace, is currently receiving medical treatment for his injuries. Mehmet Yorubulut, the head doctor at Acibadem Hospital, confirmed that Meler had not sustained any brain damage and was expected to be discharged on Wednesday. Recounting the incident to Turkish news agencies, Meler said, “Faruk Koca punched me under my left eye – I fell to the ground. While I was on the ground, other people kicked me in the face and other parts of my body many times.”