Wednesday, May 25, 2022

When football’s laws are so inflexible, referees’ gaffes are harder to swallow

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A zealous and over-literal refereeing culture is undermining the authority of officials whether they make mistakes or not

Janny Sikazwe made a mistake and ended up blowing for full time after 85 minutes of Wednesday’s Africa Cup of Nations meeting between Mali and Tunisia. Forgetting to stop the watch during a water break (if that is what happened) is an understandable error – particularly given he was subsequently taken to hospital suffering from heatstroke – and one that could easily have been rectified.

As it was, though, Sikazwe, an experienced referee who took charge of the 2017 Cup of Nations final as well as Belgium v Panama and Japan v Poland at the 2018 World Cup, looked rattled. He sent off Mali’s El Bilal Touré for an innocuous foul, sticking with his original decision even after VAR asked him to review it, and then blew for full time again after 89 minutes and 47 seconds. Tunisia then refused an attempt to restart the game half an hour later, and it remains to be seen what the fallout will be.

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