BATA,Equatorial Guinea, February 1 – The fall-out from Equatorial Guinea’s controversial Africa Cup of Nations win against Tunisia in Bata on Saturday threatens to cast a shadow over the rest of the competition.
The hosts were heading out until Mauritian referee Rajindraparsad Seechurn awarded them a highly dubious penalty in injury time after Ivan Bolado went down under a Hamza Mathlouthi challenge.
Javier Balboa converted from the spot and then netted a wonderful free-kick in extra time to take Equatorial Guinea through 2-1.
Tunisian players furious with the decision which changed the match had to be beaten back by riot police as they tried to attack the referee at full time.
There has been no official statement on what happened from the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and they did not respond to AFP’s attempts to contact them on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the angry Tunisian players demanded the resignation of CAF president Issa Hayatou.
Striker Ahmed Akaichi, who opened the scoring for the Carthage Eagles against Equatorial Guinea, fumed: “It was not normal. The whole world saw this match.
“It is something that the CAF and Hayatou have to think about. He can’t stay in African football anymore. He has to go!”
Tunisia’s exit came after their stay in the town of Ebebiyin during the group stage was marred by accomodation problems.
“At the beginning, in Ebebiyin, we saw the hotels that the other teams were staying in, comfortable, with big screens. We didn’t have televisions, no electricity or water, ok no problem,” said defender Bilel Mohsni.
“We moved around in a minibus, with small seats, we had no air conditioning for three hours, but we accept that.
“Then we arrive here and we play against the host country. We thought there would be lots of people, a great atmosphere, and we come up against a referee who was on their side and destroyed the whole party.”
– ‘Africa will never progress’ –
Of the reaction of the Tunisian players after the game, he added: “It’s only normal that, when you play a match and you are had, that everyone is angry.
“We are in Africa, and it is because of matches like that and things like that that Africa will never progress.
“It’s a shame because, for those of us who play in Europe, we come here to help our country and Africa progress, to show that there are good players who can compete with the best in the world.
“There is no point coming to the Cup of Nations if it is to be robbed like that.
“If Equatorial Guinea were better I would have said they deserved to win, except we were better and the referee was even better than us, so well done to the referee.
“If the referees continue like that, I think Equatorial Guinea will win the Cup. Even the best African players will never beat a referee like that.”
Equatorial Guinea coach Esteban Becker had a different viewpoint, although even he admitted that he would have contested such a decision had it gone against his side.
He said: “A decision to give a penalty will always be contested, and this was a last-minute penalty. Who wouldn’t contest it?”
The hosts will point to a goal they had wrongly ruled out against them in their opening match against Congo Brazzaville as evidence that things have not always been made easy for them at this Cup of Nations.
And legendary former Cameroon goalkeeper Joseph-Antoine Bell told AFP on Sunday that Tunisia’s behaviour post-game was over the top.
“That Equatorial Guinea won a penalty, and that it should be contested, can happen,” he said.
“But to go to war over it, I don’t agree with that. It is one of these things that can happen in a game.
“In 1986 (Diego) Maradona scored with his hand and Argentina won the World Cup with that, especially because after that he scored a goal that nobody can contest.
“Yesterday Equatorial Guinea scored a free-kick that nobody can dispute.”