The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has suspended top Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe for alleged biased officiating during the Champions League semi-final match between Tunisian side Esperance and Premeiro Agusto of Angola. Sikazwe, who epitomised Zambian football when he officiated at the 2018 Russia World Cup and other top global championships, will not handle any match until he satisfactorily responds to CAF, which has asked him to exculpate himself.
Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) general secretary Adrian Kashala comfirmed the suspension in an interview in Lusaka yesterday. Kashala said an exculpatory letter has since been written and FAZ is waiting for a response from “We have received a letter from CAF where they have asked him [Sikazwe] to exculpate himself and we have already written back. For now, Sikazwe will not perform any duties until the matter is resolved,” he said. Agusto protested to CAF about the Lusaka-based teacher’s alleged bias in his officiating last month.
The Angolans suspected the Tunisians allegedly gave the 39-year-old whistleman a ‘token of appreciation’. Agusto won the first leg 1-0 in Luanda while the return leg, which Sikazwe officiated, ended 4 -2 in favour of Esperance. Esperance went on to win the CAF Champions League after beating Egyptian side Al Ahly.
The development is a blow to Sikazwe, who officiated at the 2018 Russia World Cup and is FAZ’s favoured candidate for the position of technical director. Sikazwe had remained Zambia’s only beacon of hope in football following the Chipolopolo’s poor performance in the last two years. With Zambia failing to qualify for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, fans had hoped to retain interest in the tournament through the highly athletic referee. After officiating at the 2018 World Cup won by Paul Pogba’s France, Sikazwe was lifted shoulder-high by Zambian fans on his return at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka.