Tunisia 0-1 Mali: Referee controversy mars AFCON meeting in farcical circumstances

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 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Mali’s Africa Cup of Nations victory over Tunisia ended in farcical circumstances after referee Janny Sikazwe blew for full-time before the end of the regulation 90 minutes, despite a host of stoppages.

Both teams were eventually asked to return to the field to finish the match, with the fourth official set to take over from Sikazwe in the middle, but Tunisia’s players refused in protest, allowing Mali to keep a 1-0 win, which came courtesy of Ibrahima Kone’s 48th-minute penalty.

Zimbabwean official Sikazwe had already erroneously blown for full-time once, after 85 minutes, only for the game to be resumed after protests from the Tunisian bench.

Upon the restart, Mali’s El Bilal Toure was shown a straight red card, prompting yet another delay in a match that had already included two penalty kicks, multiple VAR checks and seven substitutions.

Despite the stoppages, Sikazwe blew for full-time for a second time with the clock yet to tick over to 90 minutes and no additional time played whatsoever.

Tunisian coach Mondher Kebaier and his staff were again furious and entered the playing field to remonstrate, with security guards required to escort the officiating team off the pitch.

However, around 20 minutes later, CAF officials intervened, interrupting Mali boss Mohamed Magassouba’s post-match press conference to order the teams to return to the pitch to play out three minutes of additional time.

Mali’s players eventually re-emerged from the tunnel in full kit but they were not joined by their opponents.

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