AFCON ref claims he 'could have died from heatstroke' during Tunisia vs Mali game 6 months ago

AFCON ref claims he 'could have died from heatstroke' during Tunisia vs Mali game

'I was lucky I didn't go into a coma. It would have been a very different story'

The referee who blew for full-time early in the Africa Cup of Nations match between Tunisia and Mali claims he could have died of heatstroke.

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Janny Sikazwe was the subject of controversy after blowing the final whistle early not once but twice in the group stage fixture. As well as blowing his whistle in the 85th minute, prompting outrage from both teams, he again called the game to a close before the clock had hit 90 minutes.

Following the premature full-time whistle, CAF officials instructed the teams to go back out and complete the game. However, Mali, who were 1-0 up, went back out to play, but Tunisia did not appear.

The North Africans filed a formal complaint to the Confederation of African Football, but it was rejected and the result stood.

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Zambian Sikazwe was later taken to hospital having suffered from sun stroke, and the official has since claimed that 'he could've died' from it.

"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.

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"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."

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Cameroon, where AFCON is being held, has reached temperatures of over 30C during the tournament, with some teams - notably Algeria - citing the heat and high humidity as a factor in results. 

Speaking to Zambian media on his arrival back in the country, Sikazwe argued that the weather in Limbe was the reason for his underwhelming performance 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.

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"Everything I was putting on was hot. Even the communication equipment, I wanted to throw it away. It was so hot."

The second-half of the match saw a number of stoppages, including two VAR reviews, a drinks break and five windows for substitutions. It was thought that at least five minutes of injury time should have been added on after normal time.

Despite this, Sikazwe said he was not able to communicate with the rest of his officiating team and that he began to get 'confused'.

"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."

The day after Mali's controversial 1-0 victory over Tunisia, Sikazwe went to hospital for heart, blood and physical tests. However, all his results came back normal.

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