Tunisia have been unsuccessful in their bid to replay their controversial defeat to Mali at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Mali won the opening Group F match 1-0, courtesy of a penalty from Ibrahima Kone, but events were overshadowed by the officiating of Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe.
Sikazwe blew the full-time whistle with just 85 minutes played before restarting play for four minutes, only to blow again with just 89 minutes and 43 seconds of the clash gone.
Tunisia’s fury at referee Janny Sikazwe (left) has led to an unsuccessful request for a replay against Mali at the Africa Cup of Nations after he twice blew for full-time before 90 minutes
Tunisia’s coaching staff demanded answers after their opening Group F match ended early
Tunisia, who found themselves with a man advantage for the final few minutes after Mali were reduced to 10, were furious at the early finish and sought a replay to be sanctioned by the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
The tournament’s organising committee met late on Thursday to determine how to proceed and concluded that Mali’s win stands and Tunisia’s request for a replay is to be unsuccessful.
‘The organising committee has decided to dismiss the protest lodged by the Tunisian team. To homologate the match result as 1-0 in favour of Mali,’ a statement from CAF read.
Sikazwe (left) had to be escorted off the pitch by security officials after infuriating Tunisia
Mali were down to 10 men late on for a harsh red card and Tunisia were seeking an equaliser
Having been escorted off through a security staff blockade, Sikazwe requested both sets of players to return to the pitch 40 minutes after they had gone off.
Mali coach Mohamed Magassouba’s post-match press conference was interrupted as it was announced the final three minutes of the game would be played.
About 40 minutes later the Mali players and officials returned to the pitch but the Tunisian players refused as they had reportedly already had their ice baths.
Explaining why his players did not go back out, Tunisia boss Mondher Kebaier said the ‘inexplicable’ refereeing left no option.
Tunisia boss Mondher Kebaier described Sikazwe’s officiating in Limbe as ‘inexplicable’
‘It’s a difficult situation to deal with,’ he told reporters. ‘The referee also blew with five minutes left in the first half.
‘Then he blew after 89 minutes in the second, denying us practically seven or eight minutes of added time.
‘His decision is inexplicable. I can’t understand how he made his decision and we will see what happens now.’
Asked about events after the game in trying to get the players to go back out, Kebaier concluded: ‘He blew for full-time and asked us to go to the dressing room. The players were in their ice baths when asked to come out.
‘In 30 years in this business I have never seen anything like it.’
It was revealed on Thursday that the referee at the centre of the farcical scenes between Tunisia and Mali on Wednesday was suffering from heat stroke and severe dehydration and was taken to hospital after the match, according to the man in charge of officiating at AFCON.
AFCON’s head of refereeing has since claimed Sikazwe (left) was suffering with heat stroke
AFCON’s head of referees Essam Abdel-Fatah has defended the performance of Sikazwe – who officiated at the 2018 World Cup – by insisting he was suffering from the effects of the 34-degree heat level and 65 per cent humidity in Limbe, Cameroon.
‘The referee suffered from heat stroke and very severe dehydration, which led to him losing focus and was taken to the hospital,’ Abdel-Fatah told MBC Egypt’s Al-Laib.
‘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.’
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.