The referee who infamously blew early for full-time not once but twice in the Africa Cup of Nations fixture between Tunisia and Mali claims he was lucky he “didn’t go into a coma” and could’ve died from heatstroke.
Janny Sikazwe of Zambia was the subject of ridicule and controversy after twice signalling the end of the match prematurely during the group stage fixture.
Not content with incorrectly blowing for full-time in the 85th minute, prompting confused looks from both sets of players, he then ended the match before the 90 minute mark.
In between those two huge errors, he also found time to dish out a contentious red card to Mali forward El Bilal Toure.
Tunisia, who were 1-0 down and would have expected a reasonable chunk of injury time, were furious with the official as their staff and substitutes poured onto the pitch to remonstrate with the decision.
Some time after the ‘final’ whistle had blown, CAF officials instructed the teams to go back out and complete the tie, interrupting a Mali press conference to deliver the information.
Mali went back out to finish the game, but Tunisia did not reappear.
Sikazwe, the referee at the centre of the controversy, was later taken to hospital with sun stroke, and the premature whistler has since claimed that ‘he could’ve died’ from the heat.
“I have seen people going for duties outside the country and come back in a casket,” he said.
“I was very close to coming back like that.
“I was lucky I didn’t go into a coma. It would have been a very different story.
“The doctors told me my body was not cooling down. It would have been just a little time before [I would have gone] into a coma, and that would have been the end.
“I think God told me to end the match. He saved me.”
Speaking to Zambian media after returning to his homeland, Sikazwe argued that the weather in Limbe, where the match was held, was the reason for his bizarre decision making in the second half.
He said: “The weather was so hot, and the humidity was about 85 per cent.
“After the warm-up I felt the [conditions] were something else. We were trying to drink water but you could not feel the water quenching you – nothing.
“But we [match officials] believe we are soldiers and we go and fight.
“Everything I was putting on was hot. Even the communication equipment, I wanted to throw it away. It was so hot.”
“I started getting confused. I could not hear anybody,” he added.
“I reached the point where I could start hearing some noise and I thought someone was communicating with me and people were telling me ‘no you ended the match’. It was a very strange situation.
“I was going through my head to find who told me to end the match. Maybe I was talking to myself, I don’t know. That is how bad the situation was.”