AFCON 2021: 4 Most Interesting Moments So Far

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The ongoing 2021 African Cup of Nations has been filled with fascinating moments from unexpected goals, surprising losses to Covid-related issues that make this year’s tournament one for the history books. From Nigeria’s shocking loss to the referee who prematurely ended a game twice, let’s take a look at some of the interesting AFCON moments so far:

Tunisia Knocks Nigeria Out Of AFCON

With Nigeria’s winning streak, a history of defeating Tunisia at previous AFCON matches and Tunisia’s Covid-hit team, no one expected the Super Eagles to lose but that’s exactly what happened. A dull opening half set the tone with Tunisia’s Youssef Msakni scoring the winning goal two minutes into the second half. Nigeria’s Alex Iwobi got sent off with a red card just seven minutes after coming in. With a couple of other missteps, Nigeria lost to Tunisia 1-0 at the 16th round of the AFCON on the 23rd of January. Tunisia is set to play Burkina Faso after knocking out three-time AFCON champions Nigeria.

Salima Mukansanga Makes AFCON History 

Rwanda’s Salima Mukansanga has become the first woman to officiate a match in the tournament’s 65-year history. She was the fourth official (an assistant to the referee) during the group stage match between Guinea and Malawi on January 10. She refereed the group stage match between Zimbabwe and Guinea on January 18. Prior to the AFCON, she officiated at the Olympics, Women’s World Cup, Africa Women Cup of Nations, and the CAF Women’s Champions League.

On making AFCON history, Mukansanga told the press, “It’s a privilege. It’s a pleasure to me, to the rest of African women referees. It’s [an] opportunity to open the door and to show that all African [women] are capable. They can reach that stage.”

Referee Premarurely Blows The Final Whistle Twice 

Day 4 of AFCON 2021 came with some drama when centre referee Janny Sikazwe prematurely ended the match twice. During the Tunisia and Mali game, the 43-year-old Zambian first blew the final whistle on 85 minutes to the bewilderment of the players and spectators. Notified of his mistake, the Zambian official restarted the match only to blow the final whistle again a few seconds to 90 minutes — without adding extra time. As expected, this sparked a furious outburst from players and managers alike including Tunisia manager, Mondher Kebaier. The match officially ended as a 1-0 win for Mali. 

Sierra Leone Returns To AFCON After 25-year Absence

Sierra Leone has been out of AFCON since 1996 for several reasons. In 2013, the team were one game away from playing in the continental tournament. They were unable to join in 2015 because of Ebola and they got disqualified because of a FIFA suspension in 2019. Sierra Leone returned this year in a tough match against defending champions Algeria. The match ended in a goalless draw due to impressive saves from Mohamed Kamara, Sierra Leone’s goalkeeper. With seven saves, he became the first keeper at this year’s tournament to win the Man of the Match award.