Tunisia headed by head coach Mondher Kebaier were left furious with the referee’s decision after he blew for full-time twice before 90 minutes during their 1-0 loss to Mali, courtesy of Ibrahima Kone’s 48th minute penalty.
It was controversial in the latter stages of the first game of Group F at Limbe Stadium, when referee Janny Sikwazwe first finished the game in the 85th minute only to be advised that there were still more minutes left, by the fourth official.
As if that was not enough, four minutes later in the 89th minute, he blew for full-time and this time round stuck by his decision amidst complaints from the losing team.
“Very tough to manage non sporting affairs. At the 85th minute, he blows the final whistle. Again at 89th minute,” Kebaier said in the post match press conference.
He added: “there was supposed to be seven to eight minutes of additional time because even the fourth referee was preparing to lift the board and then the whistle was blown. His decision is inexplicable.”
After all that drama on the pitch, more would still unfold off the pitch when CAF officials walked straight into the press conference room and ordered Mali head coach Mohamed Magasouba to return his team on the pitch for the final five minutes.
On the other hand, Tunisia refused to return on the pitch with Kebaier claiming that his players were already on for their ice baths.
“The players were taking ice baths for 35 minutes before they were called back out again. I have been coaching for a long time, over 30 years, I have never seen anything like it.”
The above controversy also delayed another match of Group F between Mauritania and Gambia that was also supposed to happen later at Limbe. It started 45 minutes late.
Information making rounds indicates that following that saga, Tunisia intend to file a case for a replay of the fixture although the rules may not favour them.
Given that the CAF ruling was that the teams should return and play the final five minutes, which Tunisia did not obey too, they, therefore, lose the game and could be eliminated from the tournament completely, at least by Article 82 of the rules book.