The 2021TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations was smooth sailing until yesterday, Wednesday, January 12, 2022 when the Group F top line-up between Mali and Tunisia ended in confusion amid bizarre scenes.
The continent’s football governing body, CAF, said in statement on Thursday, January 13, 2022 that it is gathering all the necessary reports from the officials at the match venue.
“CAF is forwarding these documents to the competent bodies of CAF. At this stage, CAF is not in a position to make further comment until the responsible bodies indicate the way forward”.CAF
Ibrahim Kone showed flashes of his ability inside two minutes, forcing a corner from Ben Said in the Tunisian goal. Kone later scored from the spot two minutes into the second half after Ellyes Joris Skhiri was adjudged to have handled the ball inside the area. The West Africans dominated proceeding in Limbé with their free-flowing football forcing the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia to sit deep.
Tunisia also had a penalty of its own 15 minutes from time, but captain Wahbi Khazri saw his effort saved by Bosso Ibrahim. Both sides showed some promises of scoring but to no avail.
The game was however, marred by some questionable decisions made by the referee. The center referee of the match caused chaos by twice blowing early for the end of a game.
Referee ended match twice
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. However, Sikazwe, realizing his mistake amid strong protests by the Tunisia players, restarted the game soon after.
Shortly after, El Bilal Toure’s challenge on Skhiri attracted a red card from the referee even though the offense was reviewed by VAR and adjudged not to have merited a sending off but the referee insisted.
Janny Sikazwe signaled the end of the match in the coastal town of Limbe with the clock showing 89 minutes and 47 seconds. That secured a vital 1-0 win for 10-man Eagles of Mali but the controversies overshadowed what should have been a much deserved win for the Eagles.
Many described the game as one of the most controversial games in football history, especially in the history of the Africa Cup of Nations.
Mali’s coach, Mohamed Magassouba, was giving his post-match victory press conference when an official entered the room under the stand to indicate that the game would restart.
A Confederation of African Football official indicated that the match needed to be played to a conclusion, with three minutes remaining, but the Tunisian team did not re-emerge and the referee brought the game to a definitive end when Mali kicked off again.
Coach of Tunisia, Mondher Kebaier, lamented that “the referee blew the whistle at the 89-minute mark, it’s lunar. He deprived us of concentration.
“We did not want to resume because the players had already taken their baths, deconcentrated and demoralized in the face of this gruesome situation”.Mondher Kebaier
Gambia and Mali now sit top of Group F with 3 points each whilst the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia and Mauritania languish at the bottom of the group with no point.