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New Details On Referee Who Caused Controversy During AFCON Match

Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe blew his whistle twice for full-time before the 90th minute in a bizarre and controversial end to the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) group-stage clash between Mali and Tunisia on Wednesday, January 12.

Sikazwe, who officiated at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, initially blew his whistle to indicate the end of the match in the 85th minute, before play resumed after the error only for him to blow again before the 90th minute.

The game finished after the second mistake, with around 17 seconds of normal time still on the clock, sparking outrage from Tunisia’s players and coaching staff, who were attempting to overturn a 1-0 deficit.

Information has since emerged detailing that the Zambian referee was taken to hospital after suffering from heatstroke and dehydration during the game.

AFCON’s head of referees Essam Abdel-Fatah claimed that Sikazwe was suffering from the effects of 34 degrees celsius heat in the coastal city of Limbe, Cameroon, causing him to lose track of time.

He ended the game in the 85th minute but only returned upon the directions from the assistant staff to conclude the match in the 89th minute.

“The referee suffered from heatstroke 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.

Essam added that the crisis prompted the fourth referee to be deployed to complete the match in Sikazwe’s place but one of the two teams had refused.

“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.”

The game saw two penalties awarded in the second half as well as two incidents that required Sikazwe to check the pitchside monitor. Also highlighted were water breaks and five substitutions, meaning both teams would have had at least six minutes of added time to be played.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has since dismissed Tunisia’s protest lodged following their defeat. It had declared their complaint as inadmissible by the Disciplinary Committee following their meeting late in the evening on Thursday, January 13.

“After examining the protest of Tunisia and all the match officials report, the Organising Committee settled on two final rulings, stated CAF.

In one of the rulings, they decided to throw away the protest lodged by the Tunisian team. The club also moved to express their approval of the final result.

“We have decided to homologate the match result as 1-0 in favour of Mali,” read a statement from CAF.

Among the tournaments Sikazwe has refereed at are the CAF Champions League, the FIFA Club World Cup, the Africa Cup of Nations and the FIFA World Cup.

The trained teacher made a breakthrough as a referee in 2008 when he was called to replace another referee who had failed a fitness test at a CAF Under 20 Championship. He took charge of the 2015 AFCON as well as the 2016 Club World Cup final between Real Madrid and Kashima Antlers and the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations final between Cameroon and Egypt.

He became the first Zambian referee to take charge of a World Cup game, particularly two World Cup group games between Belgium vs Panama and Japan vs Poland in 2018.

He was personally suspended by CAF in November 2018 following allegations of corruption during a CAF Championship League game between Esperance and Primiero Agosto. Esperance won 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.

Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe argues with the Tunisia coach during the country’s match with Mali on January 12, 2022. /THE SUN UK

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Marvin Chege
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