ISTANBUL – A violent fight involving flying kicks marred Turkish football's return from a week-long suspension caused by a club president punching a referee.
Tuesday’s altercation between players from Bursaspor and Diyarbakirspor involved two third-division teams with a history of ethnically fuelled tensions.
Viral images showed Bursaspor players rushing at their visitors from Diyarbakir — a southeastern city that serves as the informal capital of Turkey’s Kurdish minority — after the final whistle of their 2-0 home defeat.
Security forces were called in to help break up the on-the-pitch violence and accompanying altercations between fans in the stands.
The referee ended up handing out three red cards to Diyarbakirspor players and two for the home team once calm was restored.
The Turkish football federation issued no official statement.
The match was one of a raft played on the first day since all matches were suspended following an attack last week against a top-flight referee.
Turkey’s football federation banned Ankaragucu president Faruk Koca for life and ordered the capital’s main club to play five home matches behind closed doors and pay a 60,000 euro ($65,000) fine for their boss’ antics.
Referee Halil Umut Meler spent a night in hospital and then issued a statement accusing Koca of threatening his life.
Teams from Turkey’s Kurdish regions and their supporters have been involved in repeated fights during Turkish league matches — including against those involving Bursaspor.
Bursaspor played seven matches earlier this year in an empty stadium following another violent incident during which its fans chanted anti-Kurdish slogans during a match against Diyarbakir-based Amed SK.
Tuesday’s return to league play also saw a top-division match suspended over a disputed referee decision.
Istanbulspor president Ecmel Faik Sarialioglu ordered his team off the pitch after the referee decided against whistling for a foul during a phase of play that resulted in a goal by visiting Trabzonspor.
The match was suspended with Trabzonspor leading 2-1 in the second half.
League rules stipulate that a team that fails to finish a match is automatically awarded a 3-0 defeat.