Monday, January 24, 2022

Referee error, African Cup safety concerns Nation World News

LIMBE, Cameroon ( Associated Press) — Wednesday’s games at the African Cup of Nations in Cameroon were overshadowed by a major refereeing mistake and serious security concerns.

The referee in charge of the Mali-Tunisia game created chaos by blowing the final whistle twice, lashing out at the coaches on the losing team, and a protracted debate about whether to restart the match.

Mali was ahead 1–0 when Zambian referee Jenny Sikzawe ended the game early in the western city of Limbe. But it was Tunisia who refused to return 30 minutes later when officials tried to restart the match, with the coach saying that its players were already in their ice baths.

While the ridiculous scenes drew more negative headlines for the tournament, more serious concerns were far from the matches.

Cameroon news agency reported that two people were killed and five wounded in a gun battle between separatist rebels and government troops, a town 20 kilometers (12 mi) from Limbe and where the Mali squad is based. The Cameroon news agency said “heavily armed” insurgents opened indiscriminate fire near a training stadium used by the Mali squad.

The fight was a clear reminder that Cameroon’s African Cup is unfolding not only in the shadow of the coronavirus, but also during a much less publicized but violent uprising in the western part of the country. The fight is precariously close to where Group F teams Mali, Tunisia, Mauritania and The Gambia will play.

And if that wasn’t enough of a problem to be struggling on Day 4, the sound system at Limbe Stadium temporarily failed before the second game of the day, leaving Mauritania and Gambia players to wait to sing the national anthem.

There was at least one feel-good moment: The Gambia’s Abli Jalo sent a shot into the top corner from outside the penalty area to give his country a 1-0 victory in their first appearance at the continent’s soccer showpiece.

Max-Alain Gredel scored an equally good long-range shot in the sixth minute to give 2015 champions Ivory Coast a 1-0 win over Equatorial Guinea in Wednesday’s last game. This means that nine of the first 12 matches of the tournament have ended 1–0.

But there is no doubt which incident was the subject of discussion that day.

Referee Sikzawe blasted full time after just 85 minutes as Mali led Tunisia 1–0. He realized his big mistake and restarted the game.

He then sent off Mali substitute El Bilal Toure in the 87th minute to make a hasty move – also a questionable decision. But according to the clock in the stadium and on TV broadcasts, Sikzave again blew full time about 20 seconds before the end of 90 minutes. About three minutes of standby time was expected.

The second opening whistle enraged Tunisia coach Mondar Kebair and other members of the coaching staff. Kebayar ran to face the referee, pointing angrily at his watch and Sikzawe was escorted off the field by security officers. One of the match officials pushed a Tunisia official during the commotion, worsening the situation.

There were then suggestions that the game would be restarted and there were reports that the organizers had attended a post-game news conference in Mali and asked coach Mohamed Magasuba to allow their players to play another three minutes at the ground. Will have to go back.

About 30 minutes after the end of the game, the officials gathered on the field and appeared in the discussion. The Mali players also withdrew but Tunisia refused to restart the game.

“The players were in their ice baths and then they (the referee) told us to come back,” Tunisia coach Kebayar said. “I’ve never seen anything like this in 30 years in this business.”

There was no official word from the Confederation of African Football on any decision made on the game and it appeared that a 1–0 win for Mali would remain in place.

Sikzawe was temporarily suspended by CAF in 2018 following allegations of match-fixing for the performance of an African club in charge of the game. Zambia was an official at the World Cup in Russia earlier that year and refereeed two games there.

Ibrahima Corner scored from the penalty spot for Mali’s goal after a handball by Elise Skri. Tunisia were awarded a late penalty, also for handball, and after a video review by Sikzawe. Tunisia’s captain Wahbi Khajri had saved his heavy penalty. Mali held on with 10 men after Toure’s red card, though not as long as he should have finished it early with Sikzawe.

The violence at Bua raised further questions as to why the organizers chose it as a suitable base for African Cup teams given the volatile situation. The rebellion of English-speaking separatists has led to several deadly conflicts in the regional capital, Bua. More than 3,000 people have been killed in fighting in the western part of Cameroon five years ago.

There was a heavy police and military presence outside Limbe Stadium and a military helicopter flew overhead during the Mali-Tunisia game.


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