Tunisia and Mali played out what can be termed the most chaotic game in recent football memory all thanks to the officials of the game.
In an inexplicable move, Zambian referee Janny Sikaziwe blew the final whistle after just 85 minutes of the match. Chaos descended upon the pitch, leading him to restart the game only to end it in the 89th minute to create more chaos.
Tunisia’s bench poured out onto the field to register their displeasure with the official, who paid deaf ears to their calls. This weird move came after Sikaziwe refused to rescind a red card to a Malian player following advice from the VAR team.
Security staff had to surround Sikazwe and his two assistants in order to keep away angry Tunisia staff and fans who had already started to make moves from the stands.
CAF officials, in a bid to save face, interrupted Mali’s post match press conference to demand that the remaining minutes if the game be replayed. However, Tunisia refused to turn out, handing Mali the win officially.
Some sources claim that the errors from Sikaziwe were as a result of the Zambian referee, who officiated two games at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, forgetting to pause his watch following a pause in the game for a water break.
“I’ve never seen anything like it”, Tunisia’s manager says.
Tunisia’s manager, Mondher Kebaier reacted furiously to the events of the afternoon.
Kebaier slammed the decision as ‘inexplicable’ and claimed he had never seen anything like it in his managerial career.
“Very tough to manage non-sporting affairs,” Kebaier said angrily in his post-match press conference.
“At the 85th minute he blows final whistle. Again at 89th minute. There was supposed to be 7-8 minutes of additional time. His decision is inexplicable.”
“The players were taking ice baths for 35 minutes before they were called back out again,” he added.
“I’ve been coaching for a long time. Never seen anything like it. Even the 4th referee was preparing to lift the board and then the whistle was blown.”
Kebaier and his staff also protested that the game should have had more minutes added as there were two lengthy VAR checks within the game.
The result sees Tunisia sit at the bottom of Group F with Mali in second, making it tougher for the Carthage Eagles to scale through the group into the next round.
The result also meant that Mali continued an amazing run of never losing the first game of an AFCON campaign.
Janny Sikaziwe suspended by CAF
Janny Sikazwe has been suspended by CAF following the issues surrounding the Mali-Tunisia game, his second suspension by the body in four years.
His first suspension was on allegations of corruption after an African Champions League match between Esperance of Tunisia and Primiero Agosto of Angola.
His questionable decisions that time around we’re in favour of the Tunisians, as he awarded a controversial penalty to Esperance while ruling out a crucial goal for the Angolan side.