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Africa Cup of Nations

Who is Janny Sikazwe? Referee at centre of Afcon 2021 controversy in Tunisia vs Mali

18:05 WAT 12/01/2022
Janny Sikazwe
The match official angered Tunisia during a game against Mali when he prematurely blew his whistle

Major international football tournaments tend to produce moments of magic, but there is also potential for chaos, as encapsulated by the game between Mali and Tunisia at Afcon 2021.

There was anger and confusion when the match official twice blew his whistle to signal for full-time, thus cutting short any hopes - however slim - of Tunisia mounting a comeback

So who is Janny Sikazwe and what exactly happened in the Africa Cup of Nations game? GOAL brings you everything you need to know.

Who is Janny Sikazwe?

Janny Sikazwe is a football referee from Zambia. Born on May 26, 1979, Sikazwe is one of the most senior referees from the African country, having been a FIFA international referee since 2007.

He boasts a wealth of experience and has taken charge of a number of high profile games in different competitions, both at club and international level.

Among the tournaments Sikazwe has refereed at are the CAF Champions League, the FIFA Club World Cup, the Africa Cup of Nations and the FIFA World Cup.

A trained teacher, he made a breakthrough as a referee in 2008 when he replaced one who had taken ill at a CAF Under-20 Championship. Since then, his career has been on an upward trajectory.

A referee at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, Sikazwe went on to officiate the 2016 Club World Cup final between Real Madrid and Kashima Antlers and the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations final between Cameroon and Egypt.

He became the first ever Zambian referee to take charge of a game at a World Cup, controlling the whistle in two World Cup 2018 group games - Belgium vs Panama and Japan vs Poland.

As his CV suggests, Sikazwe is highly regarded by his peers and one of his former mentors even suggested that he had the ability to referee a World Cup final.

"I was talking to Janny before he left [for World Cup 2018] and I said to him: 'You have already done the final of the FIFA Club World Cup, and that is a stepping stone to another higher level final'," FIFA referee instructor Felix Tangawarima told ESPN in 2018.

"I told him I would not be surprised if he does the World Cup final because of his ability and his vast experience in CAF. Everybody in Africa would be hopeful that he can represent us in the latter stages of the tournament."

He was provisionally suspended by CAF in November 2018 following allegations of corruption during a CAF Champions League game between Esperance and Primiero Agosto, but the suspension was lifted in January 2019 when he was cleared in a disciplinary hearing.

Sikazwe later found himself in the middle of controversy at Afcon 2021, when he twice blew for full time too early.

What happened in Tunisia vs Mali at Afcon 2021?

Controversy ensued during a game between Tunisia and Mali at Afcon 2021 on January 12, 2022 when Sikazwe prematurely blew his whistle for full-time on two different occasions.

He initially blew for full-time at 85 minutes - five minutes before regulation time - then once more just before 90 minutes, prompting disbelief and anger from the Tunisian team, who were trailing 1-0 and seeking an equaliser.

A flurry of confusion followed the apparent conclusion of the game, with post-match press conference being interrupted as CAF ordered the resumption of the game, with the referee changed for the final three minutes.

While the Mali players returned to the pitch, Tunisia opted against it and the result stands.