The truth behind the scandal: why the Tunisian-Mali referee ended the African Cup match early

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Janny Sikazwe would have suffered a heat stroke due to high temperatures (Reuters)
Janny Sikazwe would have suffered a heat stroke due to high temperatures (Reuters)

There is hardly such a scandalous event in football in the remainder of 2022 as the closing of the match that Mali he won 1-0 to Tunisia by African Cup of Nations. It was there that referee Janny Sikazwe blew the final whistle in the 85th minute, unleashing chaos on the field of play by the losing team. Faced with the protests, he decided to continue and, 17 seconds before the regulation 90 was completed, he returned to end the duel and went to the locker room without giving any explanations. Now, the truth behind the case has been revealed.

It was the chief referee of the competition, Essam Abdel-Fatah, who spoke about the incident and defended the Zambian judge. “The referee suffered heat stroke and very severe dehydration, which led him to lose concentration and he was taken to hospital., revealed in dialogue to Al-Laib from MBC Egypt. In this way he explained that when 80 minutes were up, the referee lost track of time and dizziness prevented him from understanding the situation.

It is worth remembering that the match was played in Limbe, Cameroon, with a temperature hovering around 34°C in full sunlight and 65% humidity. Such conditions were triggers for the referee, who had to be treated at a medical center as soon as the match ended.

In this context, Abdel-Fatah explained that the plan was for the fourth official to take charge of the remainder of the duel. For this reason, the tournament authorities asked both teams to return to the field of play to dispute the added time: “When the crisis occurred and the objections and control of the match were lost, the fourth referee was the one who was going to complete the game, but one of the two teams refused.

Judge Janny Sikazwe had a controversial performance in Mali's 1-0 win (Reuters)
Judge Janny Sikazwe had a controversial performance in Mali’s 1-0 win (Reuters)

At that time, the anger of the Tunisian team was such that the team did not want to return to the field of play, as explained by their coach Mondher Kebaier: “In the 85th minute (the referee) blows the final whistle. Again in the 89th minute. There was supposed to be 7-8 minutes of added time. His decision is inexplicable. The players were taking ice baths for 35 minutes before they were called back. I have been training for a long time and I have never seen anything like this. Even the fourth official was about to lift the board and then the whistle blew.

Tunisia has made a formal request for the match, corresponding to the first date of Group F, to be played again, although there has been no response to their claim. On the other hand, since Abdel-Fatah’s statements, there have been no new comments on the subject whose controversy continues, because The explanation of the head of referees left many doubts about the procedure that was carried out.

It is important to clarify that in the event that a main referee or one of his assistants suffers any kind of injury, the game can be stopped and the fourth official must replace him immediately. For this reason, it is not clear why Sikazwe whistled the final whistle before time, instead of stopping the actions to request his departure, or why the authorities took 35 minutes to tell the players to go back out on the field of play to play. the added time.

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