A Group F Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) match between Tunisia and Mali degenerated into a farce after it was prematurely ended by the referee, not once, but twice on Wednesday.
The Zambian official Janny Sikazwe angered Tunisian players and staff, by appearing to whistle for full-time in the 86th minute.
Sikazwe then ordered play to resume, but then again blew the whistle to end the match after 89 minutes and 47 seconds.
Mali were leading 1-0 through a penalty scored by Ibrahima Koné on 48 minutes but a man down after El Bilal Toure was red-carded in the 87th minute.
Furious staff from Tunisia rushed towards the referee and stewards had to escort Sikazwe and his assistants off the pitch.
Efforts were made to restart the match from the 89th minute, 40 minutes after the controversy began.
However, Tunisia refused to return to the pitch, and Mali, who had come out again, were declared the winners and Sikazwe ended the game for a third time.
Media reports in Tunisia suggest that the country’s football association has filed an official complaint to the Confederation of African Football (CAF) about the refereeing performance.
Tunisia has also requested for the match to be replayed. Tunisia’s coach, Mondher Kebaier, said:
The players were taking ice baths for 35 minutes before they were called back out again.I’ve been coaching for a long time never seen anything like it.
Even the fourth official was preparing to lift the board [to show how many minutes of injury time] and then the whistle was blown …
The referee’s decision is inexplicable; I can’t understand how he reached it. We’ll see what comes of it.