Zambian referee’s officiating madness takes the sheen off Afcon

Tunisia's coach Mondher Kebaier (right) protests against Zambia referee Janny Sikazwe

Tunisia's coach Mondher Kebaier (right) protests against Zambia referee Janny Sikazwe during the Group 'F' Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) 2021 match between Tunisia and Mali at Limbe Omnisport Stadium in Limbe on January 12, 2022.
 

Photo credit: Issouf Sanogo | AFP

What you need to know:

  • If not for its absurdity, the befuddled referee’s comical stunt at the Omnisport Stadium during a Group 'F' fixture between Tunisia and Mali would have easily passed off as ingenious
  • It got worse after Sikazwe’s gaffe when tournament organisers attempted to get the two teams back on the pitch to play out the three minutes of stoppage time
  • Caf has since overruled an appeal by Tunisia to have the match replayed and further explained that the disgraced referee suffered sunstroke and had to go to hospital to recover after the match

Once upon a time there was the infamous 'Fergie Time’, that extra helping of added time, perceived or real, which salvaged many matches for Manchester United. Now, some fellow from Zambia has succeeded in reversing ‘Fergie Time’.  

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Back to ‘Fergie Time’. Towards the tail end of Sir Alex Ferguson's 27 years’ residency at the Old Trafford, referees in the English Premier League often appeared hell bent on ensuring that matches involving Manchester United only ended after Ferguson’s charges had scored the winning goal, many of which typically arrived during stoppage time or way past the allocated minutes for time added on.

You can understand the frustration of the teams that fell victim to Manchester United’s penchant for snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. But to give the devil his due, football is a game of 90 minutes – plus time added on. So extended play is well within the laws of the game. In fact, it’s very unusual for a football match to end on the 90th minute due to non-play time that accumulates in stoppages during the match.

Thereafter, whatever a team decides to do during time added on is utterly their own business. Some lose, when victory is all but assured, others, like Sir Ferguson’s valiant band of fighters during that great era in the club’s history would win matches – or atleast share the spoils – when defeat was almost certain, hence ‘Fergie Time’.

That was then. Now, a certain Janny Sikazwe from Zambia has pushed the limits further with a reversal of ‘Fergie Time’. What this fellow pulled off this week at the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon is a novelty. If not for its absurdity, the befuddled referee’s comical stunt at the Omnisport Stadium during a Group 'F' fixture between Tunisia and Mali would have easily passed off as ingenious.

In legal practice, they talk of precedence, a precedent being a recorded judgment or court decision that can be used as a reference point in reaching similar decisions in subsequent cases. It has to be said here that Sikazwe's farcical spectacle has no precedence. Ending a match well beyond the stipulated 90 minutes of play is acceptable. But concluding a match with less than 90 minutes on the clock? That’s insane!

Yet, that’s exactly what the referee twice did – first in the 85th minute and then in the 89th minute – in what should certainly be the most chaotic match officiating in the biennial tournament’s 65-year history. 

And this coming from an otherwise highly rated referee, who has in the past officiated at the highest level of the game, including two matches at the 2018 Fifa World Cup - Belgium v Panama and Japan v Poland – and the 2016 Club World Cup final between Real Madrid and Kashima Antlers.

It got worse after Sikazwe’s gaffe when tournament organisers attempted to get the two teams back on the pitch to play out the three minutes of stoppage time. The enraged Tunisians didn’t emerge from their locker room.

Caf has since overruled an appeal by Tunisia to have the match replayed and further explained that the disgraced referee suffered sunstroke and had to go to hospital to recover after the match.

I hope Sikazwe has sufficiently recovered from the sunstroke. It will, however, take some time for the tournament to recover from this embarrassing spectacle. 

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