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Feb 7, 2013

CAF bans Tunisian ref after African semi

JOHANNESBURG -- Tunisian referee Slim Jdidi was suspended by the Confederation of African Football on Thursday, a day after his below-par performance in the Burkina Faso-Ghana semifinal at the African Cup of Nations.

CAF secretary general Hicham El Amrani said its executive committee would meet on Friday to decide how long the official was suspended for and also if the red card he showed Burkina Faso's Jonathan Pitroipa for diving could be rescinded, clearing Pitroipa to play in Sunday's African Cup final against Nigeria.

El Amrani conceded CAF was unhappy with the performance of Jdidi on Wednesday but could not overturn the red card to Pitroipa for simulation unless the referee admitted he made a mistake.

"CAF is not happy about the level of refereeing in the second match yesterday," El Amrani said. "We would have expected a much better level of refereeing."

Pitroipa's red card in the final few minutes of extra time was one of a number of what appeared to be poor decisions by the Tunisian that went against the Burkinabes before they eventually beat Ghana in a penalty shootout.

Jdidi denied Burkina Faso two penalties, the second when Pitroipa was seemingly fouled by a defender. He also disallowed a goal for Burkina Faso in extra time and his performance was roundly criticized by Burkina Faso coach Paul Put, who sarcastically called the official "the best player of the day."

At its final news conference at the tournament, CAF noted the poor performance of Jdidi, while South Africa's Daniel Bennett also made mistakes in an earlier game between Togo and Tunisia.

But El Amrani said the standard of refereeing at Africa's top tournament hadn't all been poor.

"Let's not cover the entire thing with pessimism. To say overall it tarnishes the image (of the tournament), I would not agree," El Amrani said.

CAF's executive committee will rule on whether Pitroipa's suspension for the final should be overturned, El Amrani said, but the secretary general noted all refereeing decisions were "sovereign" and able to be changed only if the official himself conceded an error.

France-based Pitroipa's absence would be a big blow to Burkina Faso in its first African final with its leading scorer at the cup, Alain Traore, already out injured.

Referee Bennett had admitted showing a yellow card to a wrong player earlier in the tournament, allowing that to be overturned and leaving hope that winger Pitroipa might be reinstated for his team's biggest ever game.

CAF and South Africa's local organizing committee also announced a sellout for Sunday's final at Soccer City, with all 76,000 public tickets snatched up.

In total, South Africa had sold over 700,000 tickets for the tournament, but neither semifinal was full and the third-place game had moved only 17,000 tickets for the 46,000-seat Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth.

El Amrani said that up to the quarterfinals, no player had failed a doping test at the African Cup.

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