The Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe caused a scandal with bizarre decisions in the preliminary round match of the Africa Cup between fellow favorites Tunisia and Mali. The 42-year-old referee blew the whistle twice in Group F – and both times too early.
First he blew in the 86th minute when the score was 1-0 for Mali in his whistle, noticed his mistake after protests from the Tunisian side, apologized and let the ball continue with a ball. The final whistle of the match in Limbe, Cameroon, came after 89:45 minutes, 15 seconds too early.
This time the entire Tunisian delegation was furious, coach Mondher Kebaier frantically waved his watch in front of the officials. The referee team had to leave the field under the protection of security forces in the face of the anger of the “Eagle of Carthage”.
About half an hour later, with the press conference well underway, the game seemed to be about to resume. The Malians with Bundesliga professionals Amadou Haidara from RB Leipzig and Diadie Samassekou (TSG Hoffenheim) returned to the field to play the last seconds of regular time and possible stoppage time. However, the Tunisians with Cologne’s Ellyes Skhiri stayed in the dressing room, which could indicate a protest.
“In 30 years in this business, I’ve never seen anything like it”
The only goal of the less than 90 minutes was scored by Mali’s centre-forward Ibrahima Kone from a penalty in the 48th minute. Tunisia’s captain Wahbi Khazri failed from the penalty spot in his team’s opening game (77′).
“In 30 years in this business I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Tunisia coach Kebaier: “His decision is inexplicable. We’ll see what happens now.” When the order came to return to the pitch, his players were “already in the ice baths”.
Sikazwe is nominated for the fifth time for the Africa championship, he was also at the 2018 World Cup and headed two preliminary round matches in Russia. It’s not the first time he’s been the focus of controversy. Sikazwe was once suspended after a game in the African Champions League on suspicion of corruption, as stated in the CAF announcement at the time. However, the suspension was lifted due to a lack of evidence.