Turkish side leaves pitch after not being awarded a penalty – eight days after referee was punched in the face

By Isaac M December 21, 2023

Turkish football team Istanbulspor left the pitch in an apparent protest at a decision not to award them a penalty – just eight days after referee Halil Umut Meler was punched in the face.

Professional football in Turkey resumed on Tuesday after the attack on Meler led to it being suspended by the Turkish Football Federation (TFF).

Meler was punched to the ground by Faruk Koca, the president of KE Ankaragucu, at the end of the team’s game against Caykur Rizespor on 11 December.

Koca resigned from his role and was handed a permanent ban by the TFF.

However, on the day the week-long suspension of professional football was lifted, the game was back in the spotlight after Istanbulspor chairman Ecmel Faik Sarialioglu appeared to instruct his team to stop playing.

Istanbulspor felt they should have been awarded a spot-kick when Florian Loshaj fell following a challenge by Batista Mendy.

On-loan Southampton striker Paul Onuachu then fired Trabzonspor into a 2-1 lead moments later.

An Istanbulspor player, wearing yellow and black, remonstrates with a member of the opposition during Tuesday’s game

The Istanbulspor players then left the pitch, with the match halted in the 73rd minute.

Footage posted on social media showed Sarialioglu ushering his players off the pitch.

Trabzonspor said in a post on their X, formerly Twitter, account: “The Istanbulspor match, which we played away in the 17th week of the Trendyol Super Lig, was stopped in the 73rd minute due to the players of the opposing team withdrawing from the field.”

Tuesday’s matches in the Super Lig, Turkey’s top flight, had all been preceded by club managers presenting flowers to the referees in a show of support for Meler.

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Meler had sent off one player from each side before Rizespor equalised in the seventh minute of injury time to force a 1-1 draw.

Koca then ran on to the pitch after the game before hitting the referee, who was then kicked by another person while on the ground.

Koca was subsequently arrested and the TFF said the 59-year-old has been banned in response to the incident. Meler left hospital two days later after being treated for injuries, including a small fracture under his eye.

The TFF fined Ankaragucu £54,000 and ordered them to play five games behind closed doors among a number of sanctions following the incident.


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