Turkish side 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.
Domestic football in Turkey resumed on Tuesday after KE Ankaragucu president Faruk Koca attacked Meler in his side’s match with Caykur Rizespor. Koca resigned from his role and was handed a permanent ban by the Turkish Football Federation.
But, following a week-long suspension, the Super Lig was back in the spotlight after Istanbulspor chairman Ecmel Faik Sarialioglu appeared to instruct his team to stop playing.
ℹ The match against İstanbulspor in the 17th Week of Trendyol Süper Lig is stopped in the 73rd minute as the players of the opposing team abandon the pitch.
— Trabzonspor English (@TrabzonsporEN) December 19, 2023
Istanbulspor felt they should have been awarded a spot-kick when Florian Loshaj fell following a challenge by Batista Mendy before on-loan Southampton striker Paul Onuachu fired Trabzonspor into a 2-1 lead moments later.
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.”
On December 11, Meler was approached and hit in the face by Koca following a match between Ankaragucu and Caykur Rizespor.
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.
Matches across all of Turkey’s leagues were suspended following the assault. The TFF also fined Ankaragucu £54,000 and ordered them to play five games behind closed doors among a number of sanctions following the incident.
Tuesday’s matches had all been preceded by club managers presenting flowers to the referees in a show of support for Meler.