Turkey, Collina: Umut Meler a great referee

Pierluigi Collina, the president of FIFA’s Referees’ Commission, has issued a strongly worded statement following the assault on Turkish referee Halil Umut Meler by the president of Ankaragucu.

Collina said, “Halil Umut Meler is an excellent referee and a good person. I can say this because I have seen him many times on the pitch and I spent time with him at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Argentina earlier this year. Neither the referee, nor the man, deserved to live through the experience he had in Ankara.” This information was shared by Collina in his statement.

He further explained that Meler was simply doing his job when he was attacked on the pitch after a game he had just refereed. The image of Halil Umut lying on the ground, his hands protecting his head from his attackers, is abhorrent. Collina added that what’s even worse is the knowledge that there are thousands of referees worldwide undergoing physical and verbal abuse in lower leagues, this often goes unreported in the media. These referees are unknown, and the vast majority are young referees at the beginning of their careers.

In the statement, Collina also highlighted comments he made at the IFAB’s annual Business Meeting in London last month. He characterised the violence and verbal and physical attacks against referees as a “cancer” that could kill football.

“No referee should be beaten because of a decision they made, even if it’s wrong. Their car should not be blown up or set on fire because of a penalty kick.” Collina said. He then lamented that this is not an exaggeration, as in some countries, cars had been set ablaze or blown up, and not even on rare occasions.

The former referee concluded, expressing his gratitude to FIFA President Gianni Infantino for his words and personal sympathy towards Halil Umut Meler. Collina emphasized it is the responsibility of all who love the “beautiful game” to act and do something. “Before it’s too late, before this cancer kills football” he said.

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