Tunis — The Tunisian press reacted furiously on Thursday after a bizarre defeat in the previous day's Africa Cup of Nations match against Mali, in which the referee blew the final whistle twice before full time.
"Refereeing scandal!" was the front page headline of Arabic-language Al-Chourouk daily, saying the decision by Zambian official Janny Sikazwe was "a shock to Tunisians and Africans" that "would not happen even in street football matches."
Mali were leading 1-0 when Sikazwe signalled the end of the match after 85 minutes, then again at 89 minutes and 47 seconds -- even though three minutes of time added on had been scheduled.
The Tunisians, who had been desperately searching for an equaliser against a Mali side reduced to 10 men, were furious.
When the teams were informed that the match must resume, only Mali complied.
Tunisia's players were already in ice baths, according to coach Mondher Kebaier, whose team may face sanctions for refusing to return to the pitch.
The Assabah daily said Sikazwe had "covered Tunis in a historic darkness by ending the match twice", calling his refereeing a "historic scandal by any measure".
It said Mali had deserved the win but slammed Sikazwe over what it called "a historic injustice and farce".
"Sikazwe, the shame" was the title of French-language La Presse, which said he had been a "catastrophe".