Punched Turkish ref: I won’t forgive club prez

Halil Umut Meler, the referee punched by MKE Ankaragucu president Faruk Koca after a match in the Turkish Super Lig, has said he “will not forgive” his assailant in an interview with Turkish media.

“No, I did not forgive [Koca], I will not forgive,” Meler told Hurriyet. “The person who did this punched me, I collapsed and fell to the ground. But the actual kicking while I was on the ground will be something I will never forget for the rest of my life.

“That’s why, in conscience, I will never forgive. I will not forgive in any way, I will never forgive those who did it or those who provoked it. I am saying this specifically, I will not forgive those who provoked it or those who did it.”

Koca was permanently banned by the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) last Thursday for the attack, which came after Rizespor scored a 97th minute equaliser against Ankaragucu at the Eryaman Stadium. He was arrested the day after the game.

Meler was taken to an Ankara hospital in the aftermath of the incident, leaving last Wednesday with a swollen and darkened eye but no other health issues.

Meler has been a FIFA referee since 2017 and recently officiated Celtic’s Champions League match against Lazio.

All professional football in Turkey was suspended after the attack, with the Super Lig only resuming on Tuesday.

However, one of the three scheduled matches was suspended after Istanbulspor’s president took his players off the pitch in protest against a refereeing decision in the game against Trabzonspor.

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