Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe blew the final whistle early — twice — during the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) match between Tunisia and Mali. The match official ended the game 11 seconds before the 90-minute mark.
Tunisia, who was beaten 1-0, protested and tried to convince Sikazwe to resume play. Twenty minutes after the full-time whistle, Mohamed Magassouba, Mali’s head coach, was interrupted during his post-match press conference by Confederation of African Football officials.
Mali was asked to go back to the pitch, which they finally did. Forty minutes after the final whistle, the game was set to resume with a fourth official, Helder Martins de Carvalho, replacing Sikazwe. Despite the players from Mali returning to the pitch, their Tunisian did not, so Helder blew his whistle, ending the game for the third time.
Sikazwe attempted to end the match in the 85th minute, but was finally persuaded to carry on. The ref also sent off Malian midfielder El Bilal Toure for a soft challenge in the 87th minute. He chose not to change his decision despite reviewing the offense on a pitchside screen after being advised to do it by the VAR.
Two controversial penalties were also awarded following handball offenses in the penalty box. Mali converted theirs through Ibrahima Konate, while Tunisia missed.
Sikawaze, a well-respected referee in Africa, officiated the Cup of Nations final between Cameroon and Egypt in 2017, as well as the Club World Cup final in 2016. He was also at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, where he was handed two matches. During the same year, he was suspended by the Confederation of African Football following a CAF Champions League game.
AFCON 2021: Senegal is the bookies’ favorite
Defending champions Algeria, who couldn’t beat Sierra Leone (0-0) in their first clash in the tournament, have dropped to second-favorites to lift the trophy again. They currently stand at +500 to enjoy the taste of victory in Cameroon, while Senegal has gone in front. Sadio Mane and his colleagues are at +333 to win the trophy.
The Cameroonian hosts are at +600, the same as Nigeria, while Cote d’Ivoire sits behind at +700. Morocco is also among the stars of the pack at +750. Mohamed Salah’s Egypt, who lost to Nigeria in their inaugural game, is at +1400, just like Mali.
Fancy a surprise winner? Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Malawi, Mauritania, and Comoros are all at +50000.