Afcon referee no stranger to controversy

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The Mauritian referee at the centre of the biggest controversy at the Africa Cup of Nations has been involved in a similar row before. He also made a terrible error in his first match at the tournament, on the opening day.

Seechurn Rajindaparsad helped to send Tunisia out of the tournament with his baffling decision to award a stoppage-time penalty to Equatorial Guinea in Bata. Javier Balboa scored from the spot, than added another goal in extra-time as the hosts won 2-1.

“I would like all the journalists who were present to show the image of that action to the world for people to judge if there was a true penalty or not,” said Tunisia’s Belgian manager, Georges Leekens.

“In all my 45 years in football [15 as a player, 30 as a coach] I have never seen anything like it. It was a terrible decision. It is difficult to accept such an injustice. It is not good for football.”

A website called ‘One million Moroccans against Mauritian referee Seechurn Rajindraparsad’ was set up in 2011 after the official’s highly questionable officiating during a qualifying tie between Algeria and Morocco in Annaba.

Moroccan players, with justification, complained bitterly about a penalty awarded against them. They also said they were not protected from a barrage of fouls by the Algerians, at least one of which clearly merited a straight red card.

“How could they put him in charge?” said Marouane Chamakh, the Moroccan player. “He distorted everything.”

The Moroccans were so enraged – just like the Tunisians in Bata – that Seechurn was attacked. There is no record of any action being taken against the guilty parties.

“It was shameful,” said eye-witness Walter Gagg, a Fifa official who was in Annaba. “Two members of the Moroccan delegation attacked the car carrying the referees. There were kicks and punches.”

Seechurn was assaulted again after Saturday night’s game by Tunisian players who chased him down the tunnel. The inept refereeing and the Tunisians’ reaction have tarnished the entire tournament.

Mark Gleeson, the television commentator and official Fifa archivist for Africa, who has been covering the Cup of Nations since the 1980s, said African football was “at a crossroads in its search for credibility” because of the “farcical and violent scenes”.

“It has put a damper on the continent’s showpiece event,” Gleeson wrote for Reuters.

In his first match in charge, Gabon against Burkina Faso on January 17, Seechurn made a series of strange decisions. In the first half a Gabon defender, facing the touchline in his own penalty area, hacked away a cross. His sliced clearance went out for a corner but, astonishingly, Seechurn awarded a throw instead – to Gabon. Burkina Faso’s players could not believe it.

Long after the game had finished, sponsors, television crew and stadium management officials had gathered by the dressing rooms. They were laughing about Seechurn’s poor performance. “That’s what you get with Mauritian referees,” one of them said.

How his performance in that game passed without criticism beggars belief. Appointing Seechurn to take charge of the most important game of the tournament was even more baffling.

Remarkable Seechurn, 44, is at his fourth Cup of Nations and has handled nearly 80 matches in Africa’s top tournaments, including World Cup qualifying.

Goal’s attempts to seek clarification from the fIFA Coins of African Football failed. Could Seechurn officiate again at the tournament, for example? Phone calls and emails to Caf’s media director went unanswered.

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