by SAVIOUS KWINIKA
JOHANNESBURG – ZAMBIAN Janny Sikazwe’s flawless performance in the hotly-contested, eagerly-awaited Confederation of African Football Associations (CAF) Champions League match between Al Ahly and Mamelodi Sundowns underlined his status as one of the best referees in the continent.
The Zambian-born whistle man, hailed for his streetwise stance of allowing the game to flow without stoppages and many yellow cards but to crack the whip where necessary, came to the fore at the match at the Lucas Masterpieces Moripe Stadium outside Pretoria where local titans Sundowns hosted the Egyptian rivals for a spot in the semifinals of Africa’s prime club football competition.
Ahly, Africa’s most decorated club, now coached by former Mamelodi Sundowns mentor, Pitso Mosimane, secured a 1-1 draw to qualify 3-1 on aggregate.
Emotions were bound to run high because of these historical ties between coach and clubs, as well as the Egyptians lodging a formal complaint against alleged inept officiating in last week first leg in Cairo.
Maguette N’Diaye, the Senegalese, officiated the match.
However, on Saturday, Sikazwe and his team of umpires rose to the occasion in an match that had so much at stake.
The 42-year-old ably led an all-Southern African referring cast that also included his assistants Jerson dos Santos and Arsénio Marengula (Mozambique) and fourth official, Helder Martins de Carvalho, of Angola.
In a match played at high tempo but kept under control by the umpires team, five yellow cards were brandished, all of them in the second half.
The hosts’ Peter Shalulile and Thembza Zwane as well as visitors Mohamed El Shenawy, Ayman Ashraf and Mohamed Magdi Kafsha were cautioned.
Born in the central town of Kapiri Mposhi, Sikazwe has the refereeing world at his feet. Amazingly, he got his big break at the 2008 Council of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) Under-20 Challenge Cup in South Africa when he was called to replace another referee who had failed a fitness test.
The rest, as is said, is history.
He has graduated to official multiple times at the FIFA World Cup, where he debuted in 2018 in the Belgium-Panama game that the Belgians won three-nil, the FIFA Club World Cup, Africa Cup of Nations.
– CAJ News