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Clock chaos clouds contest in Cameroon

Morena Mothupi

The first round of group games at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations have been mild, to say the least.

From the 12 games played, only 12 goals were scored, with hosts Cameroon the only team to score more than one goal.

Every other game, after the opener between the Cameroonians and Burkina Faso either ended goalless or with one team winning 1-0.

The first week of the competition has not been without drama and surprises though.

Title favourites Senegal beat Zimbabwe in their first match, but they needed an injury time penalty for the win, while defending champions Algeria were kept quiet by Sierra Leone.

Those are just the few surprises, but the real shocker happened in the Tunisia and Mali encounter at the Limbe Omnisport Stadium on Wednesday.

Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe was having a decent game, until the 85th minute, when he decided to prematurely blow the final whistle and end the game.

It turns out he did not realise that there was still five more minutes of regulation time and, expectedly, added time after the 90 to play.

The 42-year-old official from Kapiri Mposhi corrected his error and restarted the game.

Two minutes later, Sikazwe showed Mali’s substitute El Bilal Toure a straight red for what he deemed a dangerous tackle.

He was then advised by his colleagues upstairs to review the decision, as it did not look like Toure was in the wrong.

The ref indeed went over to the Video Assistant Referee screens for a closer look, but much to the shock of the Malians and everyone else who saw that incident, he stayed with his decision and Toure had to walk off.

As if that wasn’t enough, Sikazwe prematurely blew his whistle again, with the clock at 89 minutes and 40 seconds – 20 seconds before the end of stoppage time. An extra three minutes of stoppage time was still to be played.

The main official didn’t budge on this blunder and, despite great protest from the Tunisian bench, both teams walked off, signaling the end of the game.

Mali went in for their post-match press conference, which was then interrupted by CAF officials, who instructed the two sides to go back out and finish off the three minutes of added time.

After a 35-minute delay, Mali put their shirts back on and stepped out onto the pitch, along with the fourth match official, who was to oversee the remaining time.

Tunisia didn’t come back out though, seemingly out of protest of what they felt was unjust treatment by Referee Sikazwe.

The North Africans’ refusal to return rendered the match over, in Mali’s favour. 1-0 is how it ended, but there are suspicions that won’t be the last we hear of that controversy.

Written by: Morena Mothupi



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