Tunisia’s appeal to replay their controversial 1 – 0 defeat to Mali at the Africa Cup of Nations, has been rejected.
Mali won the opening Group F match 1-0, courtesy of a penalty from Ibrahima Kone, but the match was overshadowed by poor officiating of Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe.
Sikazwe blew the full-time whistle with just 85 minutes played before restarting play for four minutes, only to blow again with just 89 minutes and 43 seconds of the clash gone.
Tunisia, who had an advantage after Mali were reduced to 10 men, were furious at the early finish and sought a replay to be sanctioned by the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
The tournament’s organising committee met late on Thursday January 13, to determine how to proceed and concluded that Mali’s win stands and Tunisia’s request for a replay is unsuccessful.
‘The organising committee has decided to dismiss the protest lodged by the Tunisian team. To homologate the match result as 1-0 in favour of Mali,’ a statement from CAF read.
Having been escorted off through a security staff blockade, Sikazwe requested both sets of players to return to the pitch 40 minutes after they had gone off.
Mali coach Mohamed Magassouba’s post-match press conference was interrupted as it was announced the final three minutes of the game would be played.
About 40 minutes later the Mali players and officials returned to the pitch but the Tunisian players refused as they had reportedly already had their ice baths.
Explaining why his players did not go back out, Tunisia boss Mondher Kebaier said the ‘inexplicable’ refereeing left no option.
‘It’s a difficult situation to deal with,’ he told reporters. ‘The referee also blew with five minutes left in the first half.
‘Then he blew after 89 minutes in the second, denying us practically seven or eight minutes of added time.
‘His decision is inexplicable. I can’t understand how he made his decision and we will see what happens now.’
Asked about events after the game in trying to get the players to go back out, Kebaier concluded: ‘He blew for full-time and asked us to go to the dressing room. The players were in their ice baths when asked to come out.
‘In 30 years in this business I have never seen anything like it.’
It was revealed on Thursday that the referee at the centre of the controversial game was suffering from heatstroke and severe dehydration and was taken to hospital after the match, according to the man in charge of officiating at AFCON.
AFCON’s head of referees Essam Abdel-Fatah has defended the performance of Sikazwe – who officiated at the 2018 World Cup – by insisting he was suffering from the effects of the 34-degree heat level and 65 per cent humidity in Limbe, Cameroon.
‘The referee suffered from heat stroke 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.
‘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.’