African Cup of Nations referee was provisionally suspended by African soccer confederation in 2018 after being accused of match-fixing and corruption. He blew his whistle early for the end of a game, incensing coaches on the losing team and raising the possibility that the match could be restarted.
Referee Janny Sikazwe of Zambia first blew for full time after only 85 minutes of the Group F opener between Tunisia and Mali in Limbe. Mali was leading 1-0. Sikazwe seemed to realise his mistake amid strong protests by the Tunisia players and restarted the game soon after.
He then sent off Mali substitute El Bilal Touré in the 87th minute for a rash tackle. But Sikazwe blew full time again nearly a minute before the 90 minutes were up, according to the clock at the stadium and on TV broadcasts. Mali appeared to have won the game 1-0.
Tunisia coach Mondher Kebaier ran onto the pitch to confront the referee after he blew his whistle for extra-time in their 1-0 win over Egypt.
There were then suggestions that the game would be restarted amid reports that organisers had burst into the Mali team’s post-game news conference and told coach Mohamed Magassouba that his players had to get back on the field to play another three minutes.
Officials gathered on the field in Limbe about 30 minutes after the game had ended and were seen in discussions. Mali players also came back out onto the field and appeared to be grumbling about the situation. Some held their hands out and shook their heads. They started to warm up, while Tunisia’s players were still in the locker room.
But the Mali players then started applauding fans and celebrating, and walked off for a second time.
There was no official word from the Confederation of African Football on any decisions made over the game, but it appeared the 1-0 win for Mali would stand.
There were also concerns regarding Sikazwe’s actions after he was temporarily suspended by CAF in 2018 following accusations of match-fixing for his performance in charge of an African club game. The Zambian was an official at the World Cup in Russia earlier that year.
In Wednesday’s game, Ibrahima Koné scored from the penalty spot three minutes into the second half for Mali’s goal after a handball by Ellyes Skhiri.
Tunisia was awarded a late penalty, also for handball and after a video review by Sikazwe. Tunisia captain Wahbi Khazri won and then took the penalty, but his powerful shot was saved by Ibrahim Mounkoro.
Match referee Didier Sikazwe twice stopped the game for video review checks before Mali’s Souleymane Touré was sent off.
It was a tumultuous day for the Mali team after the Cameroon news agency reported a gun battle between rebel forces and government soldiers in the town where the Malian squad is based for the African Cup.