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The day everything went wrong in the African Cup of Nations

AFCON 2021

The day everything went wrong in the African Cup of Nations

Isifu Wirfengla

It was a tumultuous day in group F of the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations.

Firstly, shooting in Muea and Bwitingi areas, initiated by suspected separatist fighters ensued for about 90 minutes. It delayed Mali’s travel to the venue of their opener versus Tunisia in Limbe.

Gambia and Mali who swung into action today lodge and train in restive Buea, a town often attacked by separatists fighting against the French majority government of President Paul Biya.

The groups keep attempting to disrupt the monthlong tournament.    

Witnesses say stray bullets from this morning’s shootings caught three individuals, two of whom have died. The third casualty, a lawyer named Ivo Njuh, is said to be in hospital after suffering bullet wounds.

Buea and its environs came to a standstill as soldiers invaded areas in a bid to repel the skirmish. Activities gradually picked up hours to the first encounter at the Limbe Omnisport stadium.

Mali edge Tunisia in controversy

Zambian referee Jiany Sikazwe was at the wheels for Mali versus Tunisia. All seemed well as both sides played cautiously.

The referee permitted cooling breaks as Limbe heated to 34 degrees.

At halftime, neither the Eagles of Mali nor the Eagles of Carthage had succeeded to break the deadlock.

But just two minutes back from the dressing room, Tunisian defender Ellyes Skhiri was penalised for handling inside the box.

Ibrahima Kone fired home from the spot for what would become the only goal of the match.

Tunisia responded aggressively, winning their own penalty at the 75th minute, under similar circumstances. Unfortunately, captain Wahbi Khazri was denied by goalkeeper Ibrahim Bosso Mounkoro.

Players and spectators were stunned when Sikazwe blasted the final whistle five minutes until normal time.

Tunisian coach Mondher Kebaier led his technical bench in protests against the match officials. The referee consulted with his colleagues and the match commissioner and resolved to resume.

Soon after, Mali was reduced to ten men as El Bilal Toure was sent off at the 87th minute for an excessive tackle.

At the 89th minute, Sikazwe repeated his error, sounding his whistle again to end the match.

Tunisian coaches were furious and raced onto the pitch again in protest. Sikazwe and his colleagues were escorted into the tunnel by stadium warders.   

The remaining time of the match was to be played but Tunisians refused to return to the pitch.

According to Laws of the Game, “a match lasts for two equal halves of 45 minutes, which may only be reduced if agreed between the referee and the two teams before the start of the match and if in accordance with competition rules.”

Also, allowance must be made for time lost in each half through substitutions, assessment and/or removal of injured players, wasting time, disciplinary sanctions, delays relating to VAR ‘checks’ and ‘reviews’ and ‘drinks’ breaks.

Tunisia risks losing the game though, per Afcon rules. Article 82 says “if, for any reason whatsoever, a team…does not report for a match…it shall be eliminated for good from the competition.”

“This team will lose its match by 3-0 unless the opponent has scored a more advantageous result at the time when the match was interrupted, in this case this score will be maintained. The Organising Committee may adopt further measures.”

Mauritania vs. Gambia

The controversy that broke out during the Mali-Tunisia delayed the second game between Mauritania and debutants Gambia for 45 minutes.

Secondly, organisers made mistakes and played a wrong Mauritanian anthem three times before kick-off.

Mauritania ended up losing the match.

On their part, first-timers Gambia made history winning their first ever match in an African cup. Ablie Jallow who sumptuously struck 10th minutes inside the first half, goes down into annals as the first Scorpion to score in the nations cup.

Isifu Wirfengla
Isifu Wirfengla

Isifu Michael WIRFENGLA is holder of a Bsc. in Journalism. He has five years of broadcast experience. Apart from freelance/sports reporting, he is a practising/trained football Referee in Cameroon and Communicator for the Ministry of Justice in Yaounde.


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