The 2022 Africa Cup of Nations group stage match between Tunisia and Mali ended in chaos after the referee twice opted to whistle the end of the match before the 90-minute regulation expired.
Wednesday’s match at the Omnisport Stadium in Limbe, Cameroon was a tense affair, ending explosively as Mali emerged from chaos as a 1-0 winner. The first match of Group E also featured two penalties and a red card.
It’s unclear whether the fault was a technical fault, but the referee chose to blow the whistle full-time ahead of time on two separate occasions before trying to get the teams back out for additional injury time, which a team flatly rejected.
What happened at the end of Tunis vs. Mali?
While the first half of Tunisia vs. Mali, like many previous AFCON 2022 matches, was uneventful and ended 0-0, the second half of the action being much more entertaining.
At the start of the half, Mali won a penalty after the VAR review, and 22-year-old Sarpsborg striker Ibrahima Kone deposited the penalty kick to put the Eagles in front.
As the half progressed, the last 20 minutes exploded. Tunisia received a penalty for one hand in the area, and Wahbi Khazri stepped forward to execute it. Mali’s goalkeeper Ibrahim Mounkoro rose to the challenge, producing an impressive dive to avoid the penalty.
All of this action is remarkable when we get to the events of the last five minutes of play.
In the 86th minute, the referee inexplicably blew his whistle and the Tunisian coaching staff were outraged, all pointing to their watches. The referee realized his mistake and the game continued.
Moments later, the referee issued a direct red card to Mali’s El Bilal Toure for what appeared to be an innocuous challenge. The referee went to the field monitor to review video of the incident, and replays showed Toure stepped up on the ball and into the shin of a Tunisian player. After the review, the referee was left with his initial decision and Tunisia had a few more minutes with a man-up advantage to seek an equalizer.
But then, with 89:40 on the clock, still seconds from full time and still short of injury time, the referee blew his whistle again to end the game.
After two penalties, two VAR reviews and a red card displayed, not only would a good chunk of stoppage time be expected, it would be necessary. However, the referee concluded the match not only without any additional time, but 20 seconds before the full 90 minutes of regulation time. Tunisia’s coaching staff erupted in anger and protested for minutes, but to no avail. The game was over.
Last 5 min of Tunisia vs Mali in # AFCON2021 :
– The referee blows the whistle full time in 85 min.
– Restart the game.
– Expels a player from Mali in the 87th minute.
– The VAR tells the referee that it is not red.
– The referee rejects the VAR’s decision.
– Ref blows again full time in 89.40min pic.twitter.com/ilSnxlawuk
– Football talk (@Football_TaIk) January 12, 2022
What are the aftermath of the controversy in Tunisia vs. Mali?
The controversy did not end there.
Some time after the final whistle sounded and the teams had left the playing area, the referee team realized their mistake. The referees tried to take the players of both teams out onto the field.
While the Mali players returned to the pitch wanting to continue, Tunisia refused, not wanting to continue because their players had already returned to the dressing room and emotions were too high.
Tunisia 🇹🇳 has refused to return to the field to play the last five minutes of the match, so Mali 🇲🇱 has been declared the winner 1-0. # AFCON2021
—Usher Komugisha (@UsherKomugisha) January 12, 2022
“It deprived us of concentration,” Tunisia head coach Mondher Kebaier said after Tunisia’s 1-0 loss, as quoted by AFCON’s official website. via CNN. “We did not want to resume because the players had already showered, deconcentrated and demoralized in the face of this dire situation.”
“The players were taking ice baths for 35 minutes before being called back.” Kebaier continued. “I have been training for a long time and I have never seen anything like it. Even the fourth official was preparing to lift the table [to show the stoppage time] and then the whistle blew. “
Due to the controversy, the next match between Mauritania and Gambia was postponed for 45 minutes.
In addition, Tunisia has filed an official complaint with the African Confederation (CAF) which apparently has 24 hours to respond.
#TeamTunisia have lodged a protest with the CAF regarding referee Janny Sikazwe. CAF is expected to respond within the next 24 hours.
Take your popcorn 🍿
-Owuraku Ampofo (@_owurakuampofo) January 12, 2022
Tunisia’s complaint is unlikely to get more than a mea culpa from CAF, after officials tried to correct the mistake. From a sports perspective, the only possible options would be to resume the final five minutes at a later date or to replay the game in its entirety, and neither seems like a viable option.
What caused the controversy in Tunisia vs. Mali?
While the CAF has yet to give an official explanation for the events at the end of the match, there are some theories circulating.
The most sensible explanation of the problem would be a technical error or a referee error related to the timing technology in use. Bottom line: It seems that the referee’s watch did not work properly or he did not use it correctly. Attempting to end the match in the 85th minute leads most to believe that there was some error in the referee’s timing which later led to further complications at full time.
It is possible that during the five-minute water break that occurred at the beginning of the half, the referee did not take into account the extra time, which could be a simple but plausible explanation for why the match ended in 90 minutes instead. to include five minutes of detention. hour.
The expectation is that CAF will provide more clarity on the incident in a short time while working on the consequences.
Have you ever seen something like that!
The referee ends the game early …
Press conferences were interrupted when AFCON officials say the match must resume!
Referee changed for the last three minutes!
Tunisia can’t get back on the pitch!
Incredible, Jeff. pic.twitter.com/MfSfT0YJH1
– Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) January 12, 2022
Who was the referee in Tunisia vs Mali?
Referee Janny Sikazwe is not new to the controversy.
The Zambia international has been an official of FIFA since 2007, with the 2016 Club World Cup final, the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations final and two 2018 World Cup matches on his resume. However, not all of those events went smoothly.
In the 2016 Club World Cup final between Real Madrid and Kashima Antlers, Sikazwe made headlines because it looked like the referee was preparing to show Sergio Ramos a yellow card before realizing he had already cautioned Ramos. earlier in the game and subsequently refrained from giving Ramos a yellow card. Territorial Army. After the match, Sikazwe explained that the confusion was due to a lack of communication with his assistant referee, who detected the foul, and Sikazwe believed he heard his assistant indicate that a card should be shown, before it was clarified that his assistant he had said “no card.” the headphone
Just two years later, Sikazwe came under fire again for an incident in a CAF Champions League match between Esperance de Tunis and Primeiro de Agosto. After Sikazwe awarded Esperance a controversial penalty early in the match and ruled out a Primeiro goal later, a corruption complaint was filed and Sikazwe was provisionally suspended, although he was later acquitted for lack of evidence.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.