CAF throws out Tunisia protest; awards Mali 1-0 win after referee controversy

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has thrown out a complaint lodged by Tunisia following their controversial AFCON 2021 match against Mali.

“We will do whatever it takes to defend the rights of the national team. We are not children,” Tunisian Football Federation official, Hussein Jenaieh said after they lodged their protest.

CAF has, however, thrown out the complaint.

In a brief statement that did not state how the decision was arrived at, CAF said its Organising Committee had ruled in favour of Mali and awarded the West African nation a 1-0 win.

“After examining the protest of Tunisia and all the match officials report, the Organising Committee decided the following; To dismiss the protest lodged by the Tunisian team and to homologate the match result as 1-0 in favour of Mali,” the statement said.

What happened?

Referee Sikazwe astonishingly blew the final whistle in the 85th minute of the game with Mali ahead 1-0, which caused some confusion among the players and the technical teams of both sides.

After he was corrected on his call and restarted the match, the Zambian referee then harshly sent off Malian forward, El Bilal Toure.

Video: Referee blows final whistle in 85th and 89th minutes

Despite being asked by the Vido Assistant Referee (VAR) to review the decision, Sikazwe upheld his earlier call.

The referee then bafflingly blew his whistle before the 90th-minute mark, prompting a very upset Tunisian bench to empty onto the field to confront the official.

Sikazwe had to be escorted off the field by security personnel as the Tunisian players and technical staff continued to pursue him.

It was a surprising decision from the referee to end the match without any stoppage time, as the second half had seen nine substitutions, a cooling break and two relatively lengthy VAR checks.

A decision was then taken for the match to resume for five more minutes, with the officials and the Malian team returning to the pitch.

However, the Tunisians refused to play and after waiting for a while, the referee blew for full-time for the third time in the match.

A CAF official told Egyptian media afterwards that Sikazwe had suffered a heat stroke.

“The referee had sunstroke, which affected his decisions in the game,” Essam Abdul Fattah said.

“After the game, he needed to go to the hospital because the weather was so hot.”

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