Janny Sikazwe was destined to make a name for himself. According to Felix Tangawarima, FIFA referee instructor, Sikaswe has the “ability” to be the second African referee to officiate the FIFA World Cup final. And having handled the 2016 FIFA World Club final between Real Madrid and Kashima Antlers, he was on track to get global recognition.
On Wednesday, Sikazwe earned that universal attention in the most bizarre way. The clip of his dramatic performance while handling the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) clash between Mali and Tunisia has been causing a stir across social media, with several people drawing different conclusions.
The 43-year-old Zambian prematurely blew for full-time twice while a red card and two penalties also stirred controversy.
Sikazwe blew the final whistle on 85 minutes to the dismay of spectators, players, coaching crew — and to the bewilderment of viewers across the world.
The Zambian official, however, restarted the match after he was notified, but he created more controversy by blowing the final whistle again a few seconds to 90 minutes — without adding extra time.
This infuriated Mondher Kebaier, Tunisian coach, and his staff, who charged to the field to express their anger. Security guards were then required to escort the officiating team off the pitch.
Officials of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) intervened much later, but while the Malians showed up, the Tunisians failed to return to the pitch, prompting CAF to award the match to Mali.
Who is Sikazwe, one of Africa’s most decorated referees who has now earned himself avoidable infamy?
FROM KAPIRI MPOSHI TO FIFA BADGE
The referee was born on May 26, 1979, in Kapiri Mposhi, a city three hours north of Lusaka, the Zambian capital.
A teacher by training, Sikazwe became a FIFA-badged referee in 2007.
His big break came in 2008 when he replaced an official who had failed a fitness test at a CAF Under-20 championship.
From then on, the career of the Zambian hitched a trajectory and he would eventually become one of the most senior officials on the continent with a wealth of experience from big matches.
After performing well at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, Sikazwe got the nod to officiate the 2016 Club World Cup final, followed by the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations final between Cameroon and Egypt.
FIRST ZAMBIAN WORLD CUP REFEREE
Sikazwe was named among the six African referees at the Russia 2018 World Cup.
He became the first-ever Zambian referee to take charge of a game at a World Cup. The feat was huge for a country and he was celebrated as a national hero.
Sikazwe handled two games in the World Cup — Belgium vs Panama and Japan vs Poland.
SUSPENDED OVER CORRUPTION ALLEGATION
In November 2018, Sikazwe was provisionally suspended by CAF’s disciplinary board on suspicion of corruption after he handled an African Champions League match between Esperance of Tunisia and Primiero Agosto of Angola.
The game, which ended 4-2 in favour of Esperance, had Sikazwe award a controversial penalty for the Tunisian club’s opening goal before ruling out an Agosto goal for a perceived foul on the Esperance goalkeeper.
After complaints were filed to CAF, the body clamped down on the referee and restricted him from participating in any football-related activities pending the duration of the investigation.
“The chairman of the Caf Disciplinary Board decides that there is good ground to hold a hearing regarding allegations of corruption made against Mr Janny Sikazwe,” the ruling had read.
“Mr Janny Sikazwe is provisionally suspended from all football activities related to Caf pending a hearing before Caf Disciplinary Board.”
The suspension was, however, lifted by FIFA in January 2019, saying there was no sufficient evidence to substantiate the corruption allegations made against Sikazwe.