ANKARA - The boss of Turkish soccer club Trabzonspor locked four match officials in the stadium overnight for failing to award his team a penalty, only to release them under escort from special forces after a phone call from President Tayyip Erdogan.

Enraged club president Ibrahim Haciosmanoglu ordered Cagatay Sahan and his assistant officials to be detained after Trabzonspor were denied the penalty in the dying minutes of the top flight tie with Gaziantepspor that ended in a 2-2 draw.

An angry crowd of supporters gathered outside the stadium and the referees were locked in until the early hours of Thursday, when there was a personal intervention from Erdogan, for whom Haciosmanoglu said he had a "bond of love and respect".

"I told (stadium security) not to let the referees leave until the morning, until I arrived (at the stadium), but a very important person called me and asked me not to cause embarrassment in Turkey and around the world, but he promised the (penalty) incident would be investigated," Haciosmanoglu said in a television interview with Dogan news agency, referring to Erdogan.

Presidency sources were not available for comment. The referees were released after four hours and escorted to safety by Turkish special forces. The Turkish Football Federation has opened an investigation into the incident.

"This unlawfulness cannot be justified by any erroneous referee decision and has caused deep discomfort in the whole football world ... All efforts will be made to ensure that the related persons be tried not only under sports law but also criminal law," the federation said in a statement on Thursday.

Haciosmanoglu found himself in further hot water after his outburst over the incident included a vow not to "live like a woman" when he spoke to the media after the referees were released at around 4 a.m., prompting a social media storm.

"If we're going to die, we'll die like men, we won't live like women. No one has the power to make us live like women," he said. "To live like a woman" duly became a top trending topic on Twitter. "I guess what he understands about manhood is only threats and contempt. He doesn't have either the honour or virtue to live like a woman. He could not even be the fingernail of a woman," Aylin Nazliaka, a lawmaker for the main opposition Republican People's Party, wrote on Twitter.