Fans have labelled the Africa Cup of Nations tournament ‘a shambles’ and ’embarrassing’ after Tunisia and Mali’s clash descended into chaos on Wednesday.
Official Janny Sikazwe blew the final whistle after just 85 minutes before restarting play, but then blew again with just 89 minutes and 43 seconds of the Group F clash gone.
The farcical scenes have created quite a stir on social media with fans confused as to what happened, with some criticising the AFCON tournament.
Referee Janny Sikazwe (centre) is escorted off the pitch after controversially blowing the full-time whistle twice in Tunisia’s AFCON clash with Mali
Fans have reacted on social media after Tunisia vs Mail descended into chaos on Wednesday
One fan said: ‘What a shambles of a tournament this is got to be most boring competition I’ve watched and refereeing is scandalous.’
Another added: ‘This is embarrassing,’ while one other user wrote: ‘Absolute shambles.’
The referee’s mistake drew a furious reaction from Tunisia’s bench, with boss Mondher Kebaier furiously grabbing the arm of the Zambian referee and pointing to his watch in the immediate aftermath of the full-time whistle.
The Tunisia head coach was then joined by his backroom staff in protesting, with Kebaier confronting one of the linesmen to complain about the game being brought to a premature end with his side losing 1-0.
Security staff had to surround Sikazwe, who refereed at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, and his two officials at the Limbe Stadium in Cameroon in order to keep angry Tunisia staff away from them.
Mali coach Mohamed Magassouba’s post-match press conference was later interrupted, with Confederation of African Football officials barging in and saying the match would be restarted to play out the final three minutes.
Tunisia coach Mondher Kebaier (R) was furious with Zambian referee Sikazwe (L) after his error
The protests continued as Kebaier was joined by angry members of his backroom staff
Kebaier even confronted one of the linesmen to protest against the referee’s decision
After security had gradually ushered Tunisia’s bench away, the officials followed them off
Supporters were then seen filing back into the stands as the officials discussed the bizarre situation on the touchline.
However, in a final dramatic twist, Tunisia appeared to refuse to come out and play the remainder of the game, although referee Sikazwe and Mali did wait for them on the pitch.
The Zambian official then blew his whistle once again to call off the match, meaning the 1-0 victory for Mali will stand.
The game saw two VAR interruptions, the first awarding a penalty to Tunisia in the second half
Wahbi Khazri saw his effort saved by Mali goalkeeper Ibrahima Mounkoro 13 minutes from time
Sikazwe then sent off Mali substitute El Bilal Toure in rather harsh circumstances late on
There have since been suggestions that Sikazwe’s double error came after he stopped the match for a five-minute water break, but failed to pause his watch.
That mistake would have seen his watch run to 90 minutes even though only 85 had actually been played. It has also been suggested that Sikazwe believed the extra four minutes 43 seconds played after his initial full-time whistle was stoppage time.
One fan believed the referee should have given some help from the officials alongside him, he said: ‘The referee had an a absolute shocker, in his defence the 4th official should have been all over it as well as his assistants.
‘There’s at least 5 minutes additional time to be played.’
While another said: ‘We all have bad days, forgive him.’
Mali had taken the lead early in the second half of the Group F clash through Ibrahima Kone
REVEALED: THE REFEREE AT THE CENTRE OF AFCON’S CHAOS BETWEEN MALI AND TUNISIA
The referee at the centre of the chaos in the Africa Cup of Nations match between Mali and Tunisia was suspended for corruption allegations in 2018.
Janny Sikazwe blew for the final whistle in the 85th minute of the match between the two sides before restarting play, rejecting a VAR review of a red card and then ending the match 20 seconds early once again.
He had to be escorted off the pitch after the bringing an end to the game. Mali won the match 1-0.
But four years ago, CAF suspended Sikazwe on suspicion of corruption after the way he handled an African Champions League match between Esperance and Primiero Agosto.
Esperance beat Rades 4-2, but Sikazwe awarded them a controversial penalty for their opening goal, before ruling out an Agosto goal for a perceived foul on the Esperance goalkeeper.
The ruling of the CAF disciplinary board at the time said: ‘The chairman of the Caf Disciplinary Board decides that there is good ground to hold a hearing regarding allegations of corruption made against Mr Janny Sikazwe.
‘Mr Janny Sikazwe is provisionally suspended from all football activities related to Caf pending a hearing before Caf Disciplinary Board.’
He officiated two games at the 2018 World Cup – Belgium v Panama and Japan v Poland.