AFCON chaos: Tunisia coach's bewildered reaction to Mali clash after early FT whistle

  • Kobe Tong
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Tunisia vs Mali didn’t exactly go to plan at the Africa Cup of Nations on Wednesday. 

There were remarkable scenes in Cameroon when referee Janny Sikazwe appeared to blow the final whistle early not once, but twice, with the game eventually ending before the 90-minute mark.

Tunisia boss Mondher Kebaier and his technical staff ran on to the pitch in bewilderment when the match, which was surely due substantial stoppage time, was prematurely brought to an end.

Tunisia 0-1 Mali

The Eagles of Carthage were losing the game 1-0 at the time with Ibrahima Kone scoring a 48th-minute winner, while Wahbi Khazri missed a penalty of his own for Tunisia later in the half.

Mali’s El Bilal Toure was also sent off in another second-half incident that added to the delays, but Sikazwe nevertheless blew the final whistle on what appeared to be 89 minutes and 47 seconds.

However, the carnage didn’t end there because it looked for a moment as though the game would be completed in order to amend the time that had been lost.

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Full-time whistle drama

Tournament organisers called for the game to resume once Mali boss Mohamed Magassouba’s post-match press conference had commenced with his players eventually returning to the pitch.

But the match was never resumed because Tunisia failed to return to the field like their opponents, eventually – according to the BBC – leading to Mali being awarded the victory. 

It really does make for a head-scratching saga that we most certainly haven’t heard the last of and the reaction of Tunisia’s Kebaier in his own post-match chat with world media really said a lot.

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Mondher Kebaier reacts to the chaos

According to Algerian journalist Maher Mezahi, Kebaier said: “Very tough to manage non-sporting affairs. At the 85th minute he blows final whistle. Again at 89th minute. There was supposed to be 7-8 minutes of additional time. His decision is inexplicable.”

Before adding: “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 4th referee was preparing to lift the board and then the whistle was blown.”

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Players already chilling in ice baths when the game was due to resume and even the fourth official being baffled by the early stoppage is a pretty clear illustration of the chaos, that’s for sure.

What now for Tunisia?

Per the BBC, Magassouba added his own two cents by saying: “We were told to go back on the pitch because the game was not finished. Unfortunately the opposition team did not want to come back out and the final whistle was blown.”

Gary Al-Smith has since reported that Tunisia did not return to finish the game because they will file for the fixture to be replayed, but the AFCON regulations don’t appear to look favourably upon them.

It’s noted that Article 82 suggests Tunisia “shall be considered loser and be eliminated for good from the competition.” Extraordinary scenes.

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