A prematurely blown whistle, an undeserving red card, and a “heatstroke” were some of the controversial moments of the match. The African Cup of Nations is in full swing and it is already caught up in a controversy. In a recently held match between Tunisia andMali, the match official blew the whistle a full five […]
A prematurely blown whistle, an undeserving red card, and a “heatstroke” were some of the controversial moments of the match.
The African Cup of Nations is in full swing and it is already caught up in a controversy. In a recently held match between Tunisia andMali, the match official blew the whistle a full five minutes early!
If you’re a football fan you might be aware of how crucial and decisive the last few minutes of a game are. Clubs like Manchester United and Manchester City have clinched titles with last-minute heroics.
So imagine the plight of Tunisian fans when the Zambian official Janny Sikazwe blew the full-time whistle first at the 85th-minute mark. After a furious protest from the Tunisian coaching staff, the referee realised his mistake and resumed the match.
But it doesn’t end there. Only a few moments later, the referee produced a straight card for El Bilal Toure, a Mali player, for a seemingly innocuous challenge. During the pitchside VAR review of the incident, the replays did confirm that Toure did not deserve the red. The referee, however, stood by his decision.
By now, Tunisia had a man-up advantage and a few minutes to find an equalizer. The perfect recipe for a Fergie Time winner, right? Wrong. The referee blew his final whistle again at the 89.40th-minute mark, still seconds away from full-time and minutes away from stoppage time.
The drama didn’t end there. When Mali coach Mohamed Magassouba sat down for his post-match victory presser, an official from AFCON entered the room and signalled that there are still three minutes to play and the game would be restarted. While Mali returned to the field, the Tunisian team decided to stay put in their dressing room.
In his post-match presser, Tunisia head coach Mondher Kebaier said, “He deprived us of concentration. We did not want to resume because the players had already taken their baths, deconcentrated and demoralized in the face of this gruesome situation.”
“The players were taking ice baths for 35 minutes before they were called back out again,” Kebaier continued. “I’ve been coaching for a long time and never seen anything like it. Even the fourth official was preparing to lift the board [to show the stoppage time] and then the whistle was blown.”
In its response, the Confederation of African Football made a rather silly excuse for the events that transpired. Head of officiating for the association, Essam Abdel-Fatah, stated, “The referee suffered from heatstroke and very severe dehydration, which led to him losing focus and was taken to the hospital. It caused him to lose time in the 80th minute, and he ended the match in the 85th minute. He returned after directions from the assistant staff and then returned to finish the match in the 89th minute.
“When the crisis occurred and the objections and control were lost in the match, the fourth referee was the one who was going to complete the match (instead of Sikazwe), but one of the two teams refused.”
The temperature gauge during the controversial game at the stadium in Limbe, Cameroon read 34 degrees Celsius.