Africa’s showpiece Cup of Nations kicked off in Cameroon from January 9 against a backdrop of controversy over player call-ups, the tournament’s timing, the host nation’s readiness and the possibility of widespread COVID-19 infections.
Algeria are defending their title and go into the tournament with a lengthy unbeaten run, including their triumph at the last edition in Egypt in 2019.
Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia are the other North African countries who are perennial contenders but have disappointed in recent editions. Morocco, in particular, have gone into recent tournaments heavily fancied but have proved unable to live up to their billing.
West African giants Ghana, Ivory Coast and Nigeria are all past winners with high hopes, but have not been convincing of late.
Since the start of the tournament a lot of bizarre incidents have kept the AFCON firmly in the forefront of the collective psyche of the football world. With wrong national anthems being played to a referee who stopped a game 5 minutes early and restarting it again, only to stop it without giving any additional time for delays, this one has it all. And we are not even done yet. Here are some of the incidents that has kept AFCON 2022 in the news:
The most publicized incident was in a Group F match between Mali and Tunisia which was marred by controversy when the second period of the match turned farcical following some highly curious decisions and timekeeping by Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe.
— The African Voice (@teddyeugene) January 12, 2022
Mali won the match 1-0 thanks to a second-half penalty by Ibrahima Kone but it was the referee who will make the headlines, for all the wrong reasons. Sikazwe – who has been suspended before on allegations of corruption – gave two highly-controversial penalties, flashed an even more debatable red card and blew the full-time whistle twice – once after 85 minutes and the second time with 11 seconds of normal time still left to play.
FT: Tunisia 0 – 1 Mali
Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe blew the full time whistle at 85 minutes then restarted the game & blew it again in the 89th minute.
— Punchline Africa Tv (@PunchlineAfric_) January 12, 2022
The tournament officials tried to restart the match – 40 minutes after it ‘ended’ – but Tunisian players did not take the field.
In another match, prior to a game between Mauritania and Gambia the person working the audio botched the national anthem and played Mauritania’s old national anthem. The country had changed their national anthem in 2017 but their players heard the old anthem being played instead of the new one, three times in a row.
— J.K (@jeromek699) January 12, 2022
In another match, Ivory Coast drew with Sierra Leone with goalkeeper Badra Ali Sangare forced off injured after conceding a bizarre goal deep into second-half stoppage time.
With just minutes left for the game to end, Sangare came out to collect a ball headed back to him by his own defender and had to dive to gather it to prevent Ivory Coast from conceding a late corner.
But while diving, Sangare’s right knee seemed to dig into the dry turf and he flipped over and lost control of the ball, fumbling it goalwards to Steven Caulker who squared to to Kamara for the equaliser.
What have I just seen 😭😂😭 pic.twitter.com/McyMPDS302
— Footy Humour (@FootyHumour) January 16, 2022
Check out some of the other incidents in a tournament filled to the brim with them:
What is this again , AFCON is really not for the weak 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣
— Kelechi (@JustKelechi) January 11, 2022
AFCON man 😭
What is the keeper doing ? pic.twitter.com/IcnZdYO2rB
— Adam¹⁰🇲🇦 (@MufcxAdam) January 16, 2022