The Africa Cup of Nations game between Tunisia and Mali was thrown into jeopardy towards the end of the match as the final whistle was blown twice by referee Janny Sikazwe BEFORE regular time.
The Zambian official blew the full time whistle in the 85th minute of action but later restarted the play. A minute later he handed Mali’s El Bilal Toure a straight red card before blowing a second final whistle in the 89th minute of a tion.
CAF officials interrupted the press conference and demanded Mali and Tunisia players return to play the final three minutes of the game. While the Malian players returned to the pitch, their Tunisian opponents refused to show up.
Mali were then awarded the win.
The Eagles of Mali had taken the lead after a goalless first half through Ibrahima Kone who broke the deadlock from the penalty spot just moments after the restart.
Tunisia could have equalized from the spot 15 minutes from time, when Southampton’s Moussa Djenepo was adjudged to have handled in the penalty area after a VAR check.
The Carthage Eagles however failed to utilize the chance as former Sunderland midfielder Wahbi Khazri saw his spot-kick brilliantly saved by Ibrahim Mounkoro.
Things moved on smoothly until referee Sikazwe started the chaos after blowing his full-time whistle five minutes from normal time.
He then called the players back onto the pitch to restart play. Shortly after restart, Mali’s Toure was shown red for a foul on Tunisia defender Dylan Bronn.
He was called by officials in the VAR room to take a second viewing at the incident to ensure a right decision was made but Sikazwe stuck with his original decision.
More wild scenes would follow as he blew the full-time whistle for the second time with more than 10 seconds of the 90′ left plus additional minutes which should have cared for the minutes wasted during VAR communications.
Things didn’t get better as Mali who had begun their post-match media briefings were told to return to the pitch. The players who had already been changed kits had to wear their jerseys again to see out the game which the fourth official was now taking charge of instead of Sikazwe.
However, Tunisia players failed to return even though Mali players were back on the turf.
It is believed Tunisia players never returned because they felt the match could be replayed.
However, the match report after the game stated otherwise, that ”the Tunisians preferred not to return to immediately look into the next match.”
“The end of the match was marred by the controversial decision of the match referee to put the game off seconds before the end of regulation time. The Malians returned to the pitch to play the remaining time, but the Tunisians preferred not to return to immediately look into the next match.”Culled from Tunisia vs Mali match report
Things could get worse for Tunisia if the AFCON regulations surrounding the case are reviewed. The North-Africans could fave expulsion from the competition because according to the AFCON rules, if a team fails to show up or leaves a game before the referee says it’s over, the team “shall be considered loser and shall be eliminated for good from the current competition.”
Fingers are crossed as we await a decision from CAF.
Meanwhile, referee Janny Sikazwe was suspended by CAF in 2018 over corruption allegations due to the way he officiated the CAF Champions League match which Esperance won 4-2 in Rades.