Yaoundé. Tunisia's protest over their bizarre Africa Cup of Nations defeat to Mali in which the referee blew the final whistle twice before full-time was thrown out late on Thursday, as it emerged the official in question may have been suffering from heatstroke and dehydration.
Mali were leading Wednesday's match 1-0 when Zambian official Janny 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 while Tunisia's players were already in ice baths, refusing to return to the pitch.
"After examining the protest of Tunisia and all the match officials' report, the organising committee decided to dismiss the protest lodged by the Tunisian team....and to homologate the match result as 1-0 in favour of Mali," said a statement released by the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
CAF's refereeing chief, Essam Abdel Fattah, defended Sikazwe in quotes to Egyptian media and said he had been adversely affected by the heat in the Cameroonian venue of Limbe in a match that kicked off in the middle of the afternoon.
"People need to know that Janny Sikazwe is the second-best referee in Africa, after the Algerian Mustapha Ghorbal," he was reported as saying.
"The truth is that Janny Sikazwe had heatstroke and was suffering from dehydration. He completely lost concentration."